1. PF Contest - Win "Conquering the Physics GRE" book! Click Here to Enter
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Suffering from panic attacks during test

  1. Mar 17, 2015 #1
    Dear all, this may seem like attention-seeking of some sort but recently I competed in my country's Physics Olympiad and vastly under-performed. It may sound like I'm making excuses but I largely attribute this to a panic attack I had at the start of the test that led me to be unable to perform simple calculations is some cases and solve problems the like of which I have solved with ease in the past. My question is have any of you experienced the same? Also, how can I overcome this? Finally should I speak to my teacher about it as I fear he may be disappointed in my performance (I have yet to approach him about it, having received results via an email)? He has great faith in my ability as a physicist and I am worried that I have not met his expectations here, having already failed to meet the standard I set for myself. Thank you for the time taken to read this and thanks in advance for any reply/advice you may proffer. Apologies also if this is inappropriate for this board, I was unsure where to make the topic.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2015 #2
    Anxiety during a test is very common. The intensity is unique to you.

    Have a read through this link

    Absolutely. Your teacher should know. Although the teacher is unlikely to give you any breaks, it's important for the teacher to know what is going on. They can offer more targeted advice. Don't approach it as an excuse, but rather informative and seeking advice.
  4. Mar 17, 2015 #3
    Thank you Greg. I shall study that link with great interest and follow you up on informing my teacher. I've had highly oscillating performances on exams through my life largely due to my anxiety - that is to say I've varied between ranking in the top 50 in my country on some tests and then failing to answer a single question on others, even when they've been nigh on the same test! Do you think it would be worth seeking some form of professional help on this matter, as I feel it impacts on me quite deeply, or would I be better served in attempting to resolve it on my own? It's a matter I'm not totally comfortable discussing in person.
  5. Mar 17, 2015 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yup. Froze on a math exam. Couldn't think of a thing. Had to turn the paper face down and go to my Happy Place for 20 minutes or so.
  6. Mar 17, 2015 #5

    Doug Huffman

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    My initial qualification examination was a five hour defense before a board of department heads. The most general advice was to not let them get a word in edge-wise but make no errors. During preparations I solicited my MD a beta-blocker prescription. I took one and then two during prep sessions. Then I decided that they took too much anxiety edge off and did not use one. I passed and ruined an expensive dress shirt.

    Best wishes. Know that you're not the first.

    We had a female challenger, one of the first, that was unable to reach the final examinations for her physical reactions.
  7. Mar 17, 2015 #6
    Reading this made me feel so much better about my own experiences with anxiety like that. I still cringe when I think about giving my first conference talk, in which I couldn't pronounce any words to save my life.

    Also, I had a big mid-term this morning and I spent the majority of yesterday panicking, and ended up having a drink or two last night to calm myself down. Ended up going into the mid-term with a hangover. Don't do that.
  8. Mar 17, 2015 #7
    For me personally, no matter how prepared I am for a test, and no matter how easy the test will be, I always get sick right before a test. Not like a random sickness--literally caused by my anxiety. I've had tests where I had to just turn in what I had and leave the room. So no, you're not alone. Just remember that tests are only one factor in determining your abilities as a student. This is true, for one, as the skills you develop are much more important than a test, and two, if you understand that doing well on tests isn't the biggest deal in the world, maybe it'll calm you down and clear your mind while you take it.
  9. Mar 17, 2015 #8
    Yeah I get what you're saying there. I think the issue is not so much my perception of my own abilities but rather the worry that I'll let others down in some sense or fail to do myself justice. It's frustrating in this situation that, regardless of the actual ability one may possess, the only metric by which ability is measured is test scores. Not that I think tests are bad, I'd very much struggle to suggest a better metric, but for those of us who do have issues with anxiety it can cause us to be unable to fully display our proficiency at the subject. Still, I guess that's simply a hoop we have to jump through by learning to overcome our anxiety so that we may illustrate the true extent of our abilities.
  10. Mar 17, 2015 #9
    I once worked with somebody who had anxiety attacks related to flying but the job required occasional air travel. His doctor gave him an anti-anxiety medication to take before flying and that was enough to get him past that problem. It wouldn't hurt to talk to your doctor about your panic attacks to see if he has any recommendation -- they deal with this sort of thing all the time.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook