Duck Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Stress Management

What are the symptoms and effects of excess stress or "out-of-control" stress?

Manifestations of excess or poorly managed stress can be extremely varied. While many people report that stress induces headaches, sleep disturbances, feelings of anxiety or tension, anger, or concentration problems, others may complain of depression, lack of interest in food, increased appetite, or any number of other symptoms. In severe situations, one can experience overwhelming stress to the point of so-called "burnout," with loss of interest in normal activities.

Duck syndrome facts

  • Although not a formal mental-health diagnosis, duck syndrome has mostly been described in college or graduate students and refers to the situation in which the sufferer looks completely calm on a superficial level while in reality they are frantically trying to keep up with the demands of their life.
  • Duck syndrome often indicates that the person experiencing it is suffering from clinical depression, anxiety, or another mental illness.
  • Risk factors for duck syndrome are thought to include the specific and the general, in that the stress of the college environment, personal and family tendencies to excessively emphasize achievement, as well as family overprotection are considered specific risk factors and the risk factors for depression, anxiety, and mental illness in general can be considered more general factors that can predispose a person to developing duck syndrome.
  • While there are no formal diagnostic criteria for duck syndrome, symptoms that have often been described include appearing placid on a superficial level while frantically yet covertly failing in their attempts to keep up with the overwhelming demands placed upon them; feeling that everyone else is faring better than him- or herself, that others are scrutinizing, or even designing the situation to test their performance.
  • Since duck syndrome is not a formal diagnosis, the underlying depression, anxiety, and any other mental-health problem would be assessed. That involves a health professional ensuring a thorough medical assessment and conducting a comprehensive mental-health evaluation.
  • The combination of psychotherapy and medications are mainstays of treatment of depression and anxiety and therefore should be considered in alleviating duck syndrome.
  • Without treatment, people with duck syndrome, like those who suffer from depression and anxiety, are at risk for developing medical problems, other mental-health issues, disability, and early death.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/24/2016

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