I can get an A, but can I do it without a trip to the bathroom?
December 19, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

[TMIfilter] Test anxiety and bodily functions. Help me keep it together.

This semester, during exams, I've developed a very nervous stomach. Twice during exams I have had to be escorted by a proctor to the restroom so that I can vomit and/or deal with diarrhea. What's weird is that I'm not actually that nervous. I have been well prepared for all six of the exams I have taken so far, and have gotten good grades. Last semester (my first back in school after five years working) I did not have these problems.

For my exam this morning, I thought I had prepared; I ate an early dinner the night before, did not eat or drink before the exam this morning, and visited the bathroom several times beforehand. But still, as soon as the papers were handed out, my bowel rebelled. I tried to deal with it, breathing deeply and telling myself that it was just nerves, but about an hour into the exam I had to ask for an escort to the bathroom.

This has got to stop. For one thing, it's miserable, and for another, I've got the MCAT coming up in a little over a year, and I can't be a slave to my bowel for that. Also, it seems highly unlikely that future exams will all be proctored by people who will be okay with escorting me to the bathroom. How can I keep my digestive tract from sabotaging me?
posted by ocherdraco to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried Immodium?
posted by missmagenta at 1:59 PM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, Immodium. I recommend the liquid rather than the tablet, as I think it works faster. Nasty taste? Yes. But it works fast!
posted by michellenoel at 2:04 PM on December 19, 2012

Response by poster: No. When would I take it? Several hours before an exam or immediately before? Does it work for bowel issues caused by anxiety?
posted by ocherdraco at 2:05 PM on December 19, 2012

Immodium is worth its weight in gold. Basically it sedates your intestines, slowing everything down, regardless of what causes the distress.
posted by hwyengr at 2:07 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would take it an hour or so before the exam
posted by missmagenta at 2:09 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to have the same thing happen when I did live conference interpreting. Every. Time.

Is getting a medical exclusion a possibility? I'm sure you're not the first person to deal with this; I'd talk with someone at the organization that administers the MCAT to see how other people have handled this situation.
posted by homodachi at 2:11 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Immodium will seal your ass shut like a bomb blast door even if you're not already sick.
posted by elizardbits at 2:11 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Immodium will probably work like a charm, but a warning - it tends to lead to the opposite problem (constipation). Likely worth it for the exam day regardless.

Question, though - why wouldn't the exams have someone to escort you to the bathroom? Is that not allowed during the MCATs? That seems cruel. But talking to your doctor about that like homodachi mentions is a good call.

As a TMI-filter, I get like this before running races (not competitive, but stress works weirdly). I combat it by getting up extra early, eating something like oatmeal, having a big coffee and letting my digestive system get to work. YMMV, and it might not be so hot for the nausea aspect.
posted by Paper rabies at 2:14 PM on December 19, 2012

If you have an anxious brain it can make the rest of your innards suffer in ways that are more than temporary inconveniences - I'd talk to a GI specialist to rule out anything like ulcers/IBS/etc.
posted by skrozidile at 2:15 PM on December 19, 2012

Oh Hi, welcome to my world.

The more I stress about my gut, the more it tries to humiliate me.

Immoduim, very helpful. Can't hurt to explain to a proctor that you have an issue that may necessitate an emergency run to the john.

I'm old, I just don't care any more. If I've got to go, it's happening, no matter what.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:21 PM on December 19, 2012

Take it 30 min to an hour before the test starts. Keep it with you and if you have to make a bathroom trip, take another dose immediately. That should do it.
posted by michellenoel at 2:44 PM on December 19, 2012

Immodium is a rock solid cure for code brown problems. After the exam you'll want to drink plenty of fluids to get things moving. Moving very slowly, but moving.
posted by 26.2 at 2:57 PM on December 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, all!
posted by ocherdraco at 3:12 PM on December 19, 2012

Response by poster: I took the advice in this thread for my exam tonight and had no anxiety related issues of any kind. Hurrah!
posted by ocherdraco at 4:51 PM on December 20, 2012

Response by poster: Very late addendum: My physician eventually prescribed beta blockers to reduce the symptoms of anxiety on high stress days (like when I'm taking tests). That has helped immensely.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:47 PM on December 15, 2013

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