Duck Syndrome: How To Know If You Have It & What To Do

Mental health is something that everyone is concerned about. And it seems with the way that life goes these days, people being under more stress and the like, mental illness is something that runs more rampant than before. We all know that stress can cause major issues in our bodies. Stress can be one reason why someone has a mental breakdown, has nervous habits or the like. But, it also seems like stress could play a huge role in those who are diagnosed with Duck Syndrome.

What is Duck Syndrome?

Duck Syndrome is not an official diagnosis by mental health professionals. However, it is a term that has been given to many teens and college age young adults. These teens or young adults often appear as though they are perfectly put together. They act normal, as if they have no care in the world, and seem to handle everything that comes their way. However, this is just a façade. On the inside, the teen or young adult is dealing with turmoil that may be triggering clinical depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses.

For those who are interested in this syndrome, they will find that it is also referred to as the Stanford Duck Syndrome. Why is it known as this? Because the “Duck Syndrome” was actually a term that was coined by Stanford University. Why did they give this feeling this name? Those who are trying to explain this syndrome often use a duck as a metaphor. When you see a duck gliding across the water, they look completely at peace and calm. However, this is just the appearance. Under the water, the feet are moving frantically in an effort to appear to glide across the water so effortlessly. Thus, the duck syndrome was born!

Stanford Duck Syndrome Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Duck Syndrome? This is something that is debated among many health professionals. Since there is no official diagnosis called Duck Syndrome, there is not official list of symptoms. However, what most people describe symptoms as, includes:

  • The person appears as though they have it all together
  • Inside their head they are screaming out of rage, stress and helplessness that they feel
  • They have excessive demands on them, that they feel they must live up to
  • They may have one appearance to the public and one appearance, the real them, while at home alone

While the symptoms may be something that are not seen by the naked eye. Most health professionals look at the underlying depression, anxiety and other mental health problems that are making the person feel like this.

Who’s at Risk for Stanford Duck Syndrome

Who is at risk for Stanford Duck Syndrome? There are several factors that mental health professionals are seeing that sufferers have in common. These risks include:

  • Your age. More teens and young adults are being faced with these issues due to the high demand that they may put themselves in.
  • The pressure of social media is becoming a huge factor. Those who are active on these websites and want to portray a certain image are more likely to suffer with these issues.
  • Having a family that is highly competitive and demanding can result in a teen or young adult who faces these issues.
  • Those who grew up with helicopter parents are at an increased chance of being this type of person.
  • If the person values perfection, then they may put enough stress on themselves to cause Duck Syndrome.

Those who are at an increased risk of developing Duck Syndrome include: Anyone who already suffers from depression/anxiety who are under stress and fall into this age demographic.

It is important to note that a person may have all these risks, yet they never develop Duck Syndrome. Everybody deals with stress differently. It also depends on the ideals that they may have of what they should be or should be doing.

How to Treat Stanford Duck Syndrome

Can Duck Syndrome be treated? The answer is yes. It will not be as easy as simply taking a pill everyday and getting over this. There are several different steps to get to the point in which they do not feel as though they are drowning in life.

Here are a few of the treatments that have been used in the past:

  • Health professionals will look at underlying health issues that may be causing these issues. Such as blood sugar levels that fluctuate can lead to the person feeling more agitated or full of anxiety.
  • Medications can be prescribed to the person if they are needing these. For example, medications to help with depression or anxiety can be given when there is evidence that this would help.
  • Talk therapy is hugely important when dealing with a young adult who is dealing with Duck Syndrome. It is important that the person talk through what they are feeling. When they talk about it,  there can be some type of solution formed that is going to help the sufferer feel more in control of their lives.
  • CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a very popular therapy that many believe in. This helps the person to look at their situation in a different light. Hopefully, through doing this, they will find a different way at looking at the problems in their life, without feeling the anxiety and depression that they often feel.

It should be noted that treatment is not something that requires a certain time frame. For some, it may take a few months of this therapy to feel a difference. It may take others years of therapy and talking through their problems before they are able to cope better. This type of condition is one that greatly depends upon the individual. You can’t write a list of predefined steps that will cure everyone equally.

Duck Syndrome: Bottom Line

Duck Syndrome may be a new term that people are hearing. However, the feelings that are associated with this syndrome are something that many people have felt for years and throughout history. The stress of being on your own, (as is the case with most young adults) along with fitting a certain picture that you think you should fit, all leads a person to almost feel as though they have a double personality. They have the one that they showcase to the world, and the real them are at home hiding.

It is important to know that if anyone is feeling these types of feelings,  they should seek medical help. A mental health professional can work with you to find the best course of treatment. Remember, this is something that often creeps up on a person, as they do not realize that they are having these issues until they take a step back and realize what they are doing in their lives. Those who suffer with this should not feel hopeless, they do have options that can help them to get their lives back on track.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings

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