Law School Depression and Anxiety

Law School Depression and AnxietyThis week we welcome back guest writer Zoila Sanchez to discuss dealing with mental health issues as a law student.

Late and long nights of reading confusing case law. Preparing for being called on during the dreaded cold calls. Feeling like you are faking it until you make it. Competition to make it onto prestigious journals and into extracurricular activities. Is law school supposed to feel miserable? Is it normal to feel like you are a failure? Do you experience muscle tension, mood swings, feelings of sadness?

These experiences may be shared across law students and are somewhat normalized. After all, we all voluntarily signed up for this difficult endeavor.

How do you know when your mental health needs attention during law school?

Signs and Symptoms

There are symptoms to help you to determine if the everyday law school stressors are having a detrimental impact on your health and well-being.

For example, generalized anxiety can present itself in some of the following ways:

  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability or feeling on edge
  • Poor sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mind goes blank

Symptoms of depression include those above—as anxiety is a symptom of depression. Additionally, feeling apathetic, generally unhappy, hopeless, and discontent. Another symptom to look for is losing interest in activities that you once enjoyed.

Some of these symptoms can go unnoticed because it seems like it’s just apart of the law school experience. For instance, if you have a moot court competition, a paper due, and exams coming up – you may mistake nervousness or sleep disturbance as normal experiences.

In severe cases, anxiety can rise to the level of panic attacks. Specifically, you may experience feelings of dizziness, overwhelming sense of fear, feeling out of touch with yourself, sweating, and nausea.

Accessible Services

If you think you may be experiencing any of the above, stay encouraged because it could be depression and anxiety which are treatable.

Be sure to seek advice from a health professional. You can be properly assessed and treated with the help of a medical doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist or all of the above.

Health care is so accessible with apps that provide telehealth services no matter where you are. These are great because you don’t need to worry about traveling to see a health provider and missing time from school.

Another convenient option are health services available to all students even if they are located near the undergraduate or main campus. While some law schools don’t necessarily or always outwardly promote health services— they often do exist and are available to you. Check out services offered to graduate and undergraduate students, which are most likely accessible to law students.

Struggling with Time

“I don’t have time to worry about my health.” You may not say these exact words, but you may be hesitant to jumpstart any process for your health because it seems time-consuming and a major distraction from school.

If you feel that you don’t have time for yourself, remember why it’s important to check-in with your health:

  1. Prioritizing your academic success over your health care will catch up with you. The mental health of the profession is proof of the health problems that can develop and worsen over time if it is not adequately addressed. In fact, cumulative stress can lead to anxiety and depression.
  2. It is well-documented that our profession faces high rates of alcoholism, burnout, depression, and anxiety. It makes perfect sense in a high-pressure industry. You are constantly expected to perform, but you can really be dragged down by a decline in your emotional and mental health.
  3. Life does not have to be harder than it already is. Not addressing mental health issues can feel like walking through life with extra weights that become heavier to carry. They can even drag you down. Remember that there is a way to come out of this better than you’re feeling now!
Prioritize Your Health

The best you can do is take care of yourself. Think of it as preparing for the profession. Working on a strong and healthy foundation including managing stress will serve you as a practicing attorney. When confronted with deadlines, difficult cases, people, and personal life issues – you will be equipped to handle whatever comes your way. You’ll learn to lean on your social support system, and seek help from a professional. Such help can be an ongoing support during school such as weekly telehealth sessions, even when you feel your health is improving.

Ultimately, you know yourself best and the best path forward. If you choose to pursue treatment for your health or start with self-management, there are resources to help you. Check out resources on nutrition for improving depression and anxiety symptoms, exercises, and affirmations. The best part is that these resources are free and accessible as many are drawing attention to mental health and making your health a priority. Remember that you can be a successful student and attorney without sacrificing your health for those goals.

Take good care of yourself!


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About Zoila Sanchez

During law school, she served as a Legal Clerk with the federal government at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Counsel to the Inspector General in Washington, DC. Currently, she works for a health and business law firm. She enjoys spending down time mentoring students sitting for the bar exam through the American Bar Association Council on Legal Education Opportunity program and taking it easy with her three poodles.

Ms. Sanchez holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Stony Brook University, a Master of Public Health from the University of Arizona and Juris Doctor from Hofstra University.

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