I am a 22 year old Medical Student. The problem I have is recurrent, frustrating thoughts and conflicts and checking and rechecking things. For example, while studying I feel an impulse to check under the bed for any pages I may have dropped. And even after checking, I would feel the impulse again and am not able to overcome it and have to look under the bed again. Similarly while walking I may return and come back a few paces to see if something I saw on the ground is mine not. Also, recently I also started obsessing over things I have done like for example the other day someone said a swearword to me on the net and I kept thinking why I didn’t say anything to him. Then the next day I told him to not curse me again and he said ok but still I keep thinking about it, keep reading the messages again and again for no reason at all, just to see whether I really forbade him from swearing at me or not. Another example of my problem is that when I am studying I may look at a word again and again to see if it is really what my eyes see it to be. I literally stare at each curve or every letter and each period/full stop. I may also stare at a photo on the net again and again to see if the face of the person matches the face of anyone I know, especially to see if it matches the face of a family member of mine. It is very frustrating. Please give me some advice regarding this. Especially since my exams are coming next month and I just want this daily frustration to stop. It’s as if my brain searches for new and new things to frustrate over. I thank you in anticipation of your response.

A: I’m sorry you are having these difficulties. I cannot provide an accurate diagnosis without completing a face to face assessment, but the issues you are describing sound similar to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Medical school can be a very demanding and stressful time and it could possible that it is bringing up some underlying issues. There is a chance that you are having an unusual presentation of a stress reaction, especially given the possibility of sleep deprivation. However, it is also possible that you are beginning to display symptoms of a psychological disorder. Either way, it would be a good idea to be evaluated. 

Most universities have student counseling centers so it should be fairly easy to be seen. They may recommend medication or therapy or a combination of both. I hope that you are able to be seen before your next round of exams, but if not, you can do some basic research on your own or get a reputable self-help book to help you in the interim. Good luck with school!

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts