“I wake up at 6.30am and revise until 7.30pm,” explains Alexa. “I take an hour’s break in the middle where I go for a run and have a shower.”
“It’s an intense routine and it’s been my life for more than a month now, but the thought of taking a day off makes me feel stressed. I have little panic attacks if I feel I’m not doing enough.”
Alexa, 26, is studying for a law conversion degree. She sailed through her GCSEs with 10A*s, then achieved four As at A-Level, and went on to get a first-class degree from Nottingham University. After working as a researcher for a few years, she is now retraining as a lawyer, and has found that her addiction to revision is as strong as it was during her school years.
She refused to celebrate her birthday last month, as it fell during her revision time, and has only taken off two evenings in the past three weeks. “Most of my stress comes from putting my own pressure on myself,” she admits.
“I got 90 per cent in a recent exam and was annoyed at myself”
“But if I don’t revise so much, I might end up having a breakdown. I’d rather learn all the back-ups and know I’m prepared, even if I don’t have a social life for a month. I think it’s just who I am. I got 90 per cent in a recent exam and was annoyed at myself.”
Alexa is one of many students who are addicted to revision. Sound ridiculous? For some, it’s a reality. Dr Richard Graham, a child and adolescent consultant psychiatrist at the Nightingale Capio Hospital, says this is now a growing phenomenon that many young people are receiving treatment for. He explains: “The pressure to keep attaining is growing in young people. We’re in a period of extreme uncertainty and young people are amplifiers of adult anxiety.
“It’s also linked to the explosion of tech and social media which changes awareness but also creates enormous uncertainty in terms of finding your place in the future. Young people have a tremendous need to keep improving and reinventing themselves, like we see with social media. It’s embedded in our culture to keep pushing and tracking your self-improvement.”
So, what’s the solution? According to Dr Graham, students should be making sure they take plenty of breaks from revision to avoid becoming robots or computers. If not, you’ll experience a burnout type syndrome where you’re flat in mood, exhausted and not really able to function properly.