Duck Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2022

Duck syndrome is a condition that has mostly been described in college or graduate students and refers to the situation in which the sufferer looks completely calm or placid on a superficial level (above water) while in reality, they are frantically and covertly (under water) trying to keep up with the demands of their life. The term has gained attention in recent years, but it's not a formal mental health diagnosis.

Symptoms can include those of other mental illnesses such as depression or panic and anxiety disorders. Since Duck syndrome is not a medically recognized condition, there are no specific symptoms described other than the outward appearance that all is well even though a person is suffering on the inside, trying to keep up with all the demands that school or society has placed on them.

Causes of Duck Syndrome

The cause of duck syndrome isn't understood.

Other duck syndrome symptoms and signs

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feeling That Everyone Else Is Doing, Feeling, or Being Well Compared to Oneself
  • Feeling That Others Are Scrutinizing or Perhaps Even Designing the Situation to Test Their Performance


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.