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Severe emotional distress and applying to grad school

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  • Thread starter CyberShot
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Main Question or Discussion Point

So, I'm currently a third year undergrad physics major. I've always had health anxiety issues, since I was a child. However, very recently they've begun to worsen, and I've been going through a lot of depression/paranoia states. I've seen a psychologist and therapist. My therapist said I had OCD, but more geared towards obsessive thoughts. I'm now seeing her regularly and she hopes to cure me using cognitive behavioral therapy.

I'm a hypochondriac, and if you don't know what that means, any awkward bodily sensation I feel, is a good enough reason for me to drive to the ER. I've been to the ER 3 times this past month because I thought I was having a heart attack, stroke, and blood clot on 3 different occasions. Turns out it was just a panic attack. I've also developed this fear of being poisoned, by the government (irrational, I know) so I'm always throwing out perfectly good things like milk and butter. I'm a mess right now, can't stop thinking about death and loved ones.

The way this has been affecting my school is that I'm sometimes afraid to go to class, for fear that I'll have a heart attack and be too far away from the hospital which is by my apartment. Also, and most importantly, one of the classic symptoms of depression is that you no longer get any excitement or have any interest in previously enjoyed hobbies/subjects. Physics for me, was a MAJOR hobby/subject. But now, with my depression lingering, I sometimes feel very depressed even thinking about physics. The real shame is that I know it's not me who's changed, but the disease is controlling me. I want to feel like I have before, and spend countless hours in front of my whiteboard solving challenging and stimulating problems, but I can't due to depression.

This quarter, I've stopped taking physics classes and have switched to computer science, because I can't stand doing physics anymore, and thought computer science is the next practical thing. In fact, I've even fallen a year behind in physics because of this, and received poor grades last quarter, failing classical mechanics. I've also been so exhausted and have no energy to study for any classes, let any motivation to do so. I pretty much just mope around all day. Again, I think this is due to depression.

I guess my real question is, would this be an "excuse" to physics graduate schools for poor undergrad performance? And what can I do to re-ignite my passion?

Please help..feeling so down :(
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Worry about becoming healthy... grad school just isn't that important w.r.t. health
 
  • #3
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Take a leave of absence and get yourself back in order. I mean it. I had a similar problem as an undergrad and looking back, this is what I wish that I had done.

You're not doing yourself any good by persevering with classes and simultaneously dealing with mental health issues. In fact, you're shooting yourself in the foot and handicapping yourself next to students who DO NOT have to deal with those kinds of issues.
 
  • #4
Simfish
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Yes exactly, a leave of absence is the best option by far. You can even do research during your leave of absence. And just try to self-study what you've missed. A good recommendation letter from research can easily more than make up for these sorts of weak spots.
 
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  • #5
Choppy
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To answer the question, medical conditions and/or terms of illness are usually factored into graduate applications when they exist. However, you still need to demonstrate the capacity for success in graduate school and every school will have it's own formula for determining how much weight an illness is given in adjusting your scores.
 
  • #6
ZapperZ
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Still, even with a "medical excuse", if I'm looking at your situation and evaluating your ability, my obvious question would be "if he's already all stressed out and having such problems with his undergraduate work, wouldn't it be 10 times worse when he is in graduate school?"

In fact, you might want to consider that question yourself if your health condition doesn't change.

Zz.
 
  • #7
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I second Zz's comment. This isn't undergraduate admissions anymore and while grad schools may take health issues into consideration, they really want someone who can manage the typical graduate workload and then some. They're not going to admit you out of pity or give you a pass on getting poor class grades for it. And I'd see another therapist if this one isn't working out for you. On the igniting passion front, I don't have much advice. Do some sort of athletic activity you enjoy or find a group of friends you can talk about your major with. I'm always motivated to do more physics after arguing about it with a classmate.
 

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