Postponing Exam due to Extreme Anxiety
February 17, 2014 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I have a exam this Wednesday. I am also going through extreme anxiety. I am diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Last fall I went to the hospital due to extreme anxiety over constant pains which caused me to be suicidal. I ended up seeing a psychologist and social worker regularly. Do you think it would be acceptable to get a doctors note to postpone this exam until my bout of extreme anxiety passes.
posted by Jack V to Education (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My anxiety is over my father's stage 4 colon cancer, recently diagnosed. My relationship falling apart and my re emergent stomach ailments.
posted by Jack V at 5:05 PM on February 17, 2014

Yes, of course. You should be able to get help navigating this from the counseling office at your school and/or the dean of students.
posted by cairdeas at 5:08 PM on February 17, 2014 [6 favorites]

You not a problem, done it myself for a chronic medical condition when I was at uni.
posted by smoke at 5:11 PM on February 17, 2014

I'm assuming during the hospitalization they reviewed possible medication support? I had a post-doc friend who had a script for a beta blocker specifically for academic performance anxiety (presentations, interviews, exams, etc.). Do you have a physician or psychiatrist, or one that would be on call through your counselors or the student center?
posted by blue suede stockings at 5:12 PM on February 17, 2014

Get a doctor's note for the stomach problem, see whatever student support you have available to see what they can advise about getting acknowledgment of the other issues. A diagnosed illness will usually be good for some consideration be it extra time, an upgraded mark or another go as if it was your first attempt, depending on your institution. Consideration for the other problems will depend on your institution's support structure and regulations. See your department office or counselling service asap.
posted by biffa at 5:13 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

A lot of this depends on instructor-specific/institution-specific policies, but definitely keep and have on hand documentation of everything. Contact your instructor ASAP and if they've got flexible policies they can possibly work with you. If you don't get resolution there, then talk to the counseling, academic advising, and/or disability resource support units at your institution.
posted by jackbishop at 5:21 PM on February 17, 2014

Is your exam blind graded? [You have an exam number, and your name goes no where on the exam page?] Then there's probably something somewhere that says you are to inform a DEAN and not the Professor (bc the prof will now know you're taking it late, etc, etc).
The key here is to do so in advance. People get sick. Schools have procedures. This isn't a do it and seek forgiveness later situation. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to reschedule a law school exam bc I had a migraine.
I sent a sad email, they rescheduled it for a week later. Done.
posted by atomicstone at 5:25 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you have a medical condition then this is a perfectly valid reason to postpone an exam.
posted by cnanderson at 5:32 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the responses guys. Would it be considered okay if I took a quiz the same day that is worth less that I feel I can handle in my condition or would that hurt my prospects of having this exam postponed?
posted by Jack V at 5:38 PM on February 17, 2014

I would ask the person arranging your accommodations for the major exam. They should be able to advise you best.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:40 PM on February 17, 2014

Have both postponed. No reason to do it when you are already so stressed out, and it sends mixed signals to your professor. That is never ever a good thing.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:41 PM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

...and I suspect what they'll tell you is exactly what AlexiaSky said.

I hope you are feeling better soon.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:43 PM on February 17, 2014

Would it be considered okay if I took a quiz the same day that is worth less that I feel I can handle in my condition or would that hurt my prospects of having this exam postponed? If I were the academic Dean or your Professor/Instructor that would be a bit of a ringer for me. This suggests to me that the anxiety is some what task dependent and possibly related to preparation and/or consequences. All or none
posted by rmhsinc at 5:46 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do you think it would be acceptable to get a doctors note to postpone this exam until my bout of extreme anxiety passes.

Yes, it is totally acceptable.

Couple of things to consider-

Are you sure the anxiety is not related to the exam at all? Things have a way of bleeding into each other with anxiety. I get that feeling coz you want to postpone it, and also consider the option of taking a quiz instead. If I am wrong, please disregard the comment. If not, that's something to keep in mind. You certainly dont want to talk about both options to the supervisor. Pick one and go from there. Also, if you can get through the exam now, know that you will be done with it for good. If you postpone it, you still have to deal with it. Only you know what you can and cannot handle right now. And whatever you can handle is totally fine.

In the meantime, know that having a seriously ill parent is enough reason to get GI distress and anxiety to a non-anxious person. So yeah, having anxiety right now is so normal. On top of that an emotional support falling apart is enough to give anyone GI issues. It might be helpful to you to start keeping track of such things to manage the anxiety better.

While the exam is postponed, do look into anxiety-relieving meds from a psychiatrist to get through exams or such in the future. Try not to avoid events, it just reinforces anxiety.

Hope this helps. I am sorry about your father.
posted by xm at 5:53 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also see if there is an ombudsperson at your school; they can help
posted by thelonius at 5:54 PM on February 17, 2014

If you were one of my students, this is the advice I would give you: go see your Dean of Students (or similar). They will know exactly how to navigate this situation, and if need be, will spare you the awkwardness of discussing your personal business with your professor.
posted by baby beluga at 5:58 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do you think it would be acceptable to get a doctors note to postpone this exam until my bout of extreme anxiety passes.

That's something you'll want to take up with the administration, not the professor, for a variety of reasons which have been mentioned here already.

But just for the record, I think you may find that nervousness about an exam is not generally viewed as an acceptable reason for taking a rain check on said exam, medical diagnosis or no. If your doctor can find things other than the exam which might justify taking it at a later date, that's one thing. But you do eventually have to take it, anxiety notwithstanding. Such a request would seem to be pushing the boundaries of "reasonable accommodation".

So make sure that doctor's note not only emphasizes the abnormal severity of your anxiety, but also links that anxiety to something other than the same academic pressure that all of your classmates are experiencing.
posted by valkyryn at 6:09 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

A former academic here...listen to "baby beluga" and "valkyryn". Take the doctor's note to the Dean of Students or ask a staff member in their office who you should talk to about the situation.

It is not a good idea to go class by class or professor by professor and ask them..they may have widely varying personal policies and you have a problem that will probably affect all your classes, at least for a little while.

Very sorry about your Dad and I sympathize with your anxiety issues.
posted by bessiemae at 6:14 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

If your school has a Disabilities office, and you can get a note from your doctor describing this, you may be able to get test accommodations. I would talk to them ASAP.

I have ADHD, and I also have severe anxiety caused by the Concerta I take for said ADHD. My doctor mentioned both in a letter to my college's Disabilities office. And I had to make a Midterm, the day before I was due to get my medication adjusted for the anxiety. Since in my case it was unrealistic to postpone the exam, the Disabilities office set up the following for me - a quiet room to take the test, unlimited testing time, a box of tissues, and they let me have some relaxing tea. And while I probably didn't do as well on the test as I'd like to (I don't have the grade yet), I was able to complete it in a relaxing, isolated environment. If I would have had to take it with the normal time limit, in the classroom with all the other students, I know that I would have done much worse, and possibly had an anxiety attack in the middle of it all.

Good luck, and sorry to hear about your father.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:29 PM on February 17, 2014

I don't know the policy at your school, but when I was in college, it was sufficient to go to the student clinic the day of the exam for whatever reason and get a note documenting your visit (the note would never discuss any medical issues, just that you were seen). You could then contact the professor, inform him or her you were not feeling well, and present the note as documentation if requested. The exam would then be rescheduled.

Check your school policy to learn about your options.
posted by Behemoth at 6:35 PM on February 17, 2014

If one of my students came to me with this, I would refer them to our Disability Affairs department which is under the Dean of Student Services. I'd also remind you that the contact info for Disability Affairs is required to be in every professor's syllabus. You should know that we are required to take your needs seriously.

Take a look at your syllabus. I bet the contact info is right there for you.
posted by 26.2 at 6:37 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make it clear that the reason you want to postpone is situational.

Don't include the situational issues such as your father's illness as an afterthought, as you did here. If you don't emphasize the situational nature, the person you are speaking to is quickly going to be wondering why you won't just have the same anxiety issues when the postponed exam eventually approaches.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:47 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

A major reason to do this through the Dean of Students or Disabilities Services or whomever is that they will tell your professor the minimum possible. Having been in this position, I really really didn't want to know the nature of the student's illness, all I wanted to know was that a reliable source (ie an administrator) was telling me that the student needed to postpone taking the exam. In my case I needed to make sure that I wasn't overly lenient due to being sympathetic, but it could just as easily be antipathy if you have a professor who isn't sympathetic to mental illness.

Go to the Dean of Students. They'll be a middleman and ensure that the prof doesn't know more than they need to.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:27 PM on February 17, 2014

As a former college instructor, honestly, I would only allow a student to take an exam late for something like this if they had gone through Disability Services or a similar appropriate office. (Full disclosure -- I was extremely strict about not missing exams, emergencies only.)

Further, if you've been keeping up with the material, it's hard to imagine that you will do better on the exam by postponing. Later you'll have new material you're supposed to be focusing on, and if you let yourself get behind (especially if this is in all classes), it's extremely hard to get caught up.

You might seriously consider taking the semester off if your anxiety is so bad that you can't take any major exams. I mean, I don't see an end in sight here -- I'm guessing your circumstances will not quickly change.
posted by ktkt at 9:12 PM on February 17, 2014

As a former university admin and current student with disabilities, I can say with 99% certainty that they will have a procedure for this. (And as a side note, anything from a doctor usually meets the 'official' criteria.) Your university will usually have a full set of their rules and regulations on their web site, and the exams department will almost certainly have a summary of the relevant parts on their sub pages. And check back in your emails - it's fairly standard procedure to mention these policies in any communications you've had about exam dates.
posted by danteGideon at 7:41 AM on February 18, 2014

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