The Incidence of Anxiety and Depression in Physical Therapy Students. I. Setting the Stage

The Incidence of Anxiety and Depression in Physical Therapy Students. I. Setting the Stage

Background and Need

One of the major contributors to depression is the high stress level inherent in the American society (Clark & Zeldow, 1988). Students in professional programs such as medical school, which require especially rigorous study, have an inordinately high level of stress (Hojat, Glaser, XU, Veloski & Christian, 1999).   The demanding academic training of students in other health professions, for example physical therapy, often results not only in stress, but also symptoms of burnout:

studying, excessive homework, attending uninteresting yet fast-paced classes, while taking extensive notes while at the same time having a lack of free time, and the strain placed on relationships are some of the academic stressors and cause of burnout faced by physical therapy students.  Students of the health professions are highly stressed and experience symptoms of burnout well before they graduate and enter the workforce. One physical therapy graduate student added to the factors contributing to this stress by commenting that the lack of control students have over their education, the lack of free time, the strain placed on personal relationships, the accrued financial debt, the lack of communication and connectedness, and diminished sense of personal achievement transform the educational experience into a “nullifying test of endurance rather than the engaging and appropriate entry to a profession originally chosen with enthusiasm and good faith” (DiGiacomo & Adamson, 2001, p. 231).


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About the Author

Clare LewisClare Lewis graduated from the Professional School of Psychology in 2003 with her doctorate in clinical psychology and in 2005 with her doctorate in organizational psychology. She has been licensed as a clinical psychologist since 2012.  In addition to her psychology degrees, Clare is a licensed physical therapist with an advanced masters in orthopedic manual therapy and an transitional doctorate in physical therapy.  Clare is a certified manual therapist from the Stanley Paris Institute and a fellow of the American Association of Orthopedic and Manual Physical Therapists.  Clare has been a professor in the department of physical therapy at CSU Sacramento since 1996.  She has taught the psychology class and orthopedic class for majors for many years. She practices physical therapy at Remedy Rehab in Sacramento, CA doing orthopedic out-patient manual therapy and volunteers at the suicide hotline for Sacramento County.

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