Anyone having supervisor phobia?


Hey all,

I am just wondering if anyone here is afraid of their supervisor. I have been really afraid of my previous supervisor, to the point where I needed to take Xanax before meeting with him/her during the the later stage of my study. Today we had a lab dinner as a farewell to me and other graduate students who have passed their defense, and I had a serious anxiety attack the day before and still needed to take Xanax. Today I was on the verge of nervous breakdown during the meal. This was where I realized my phobia towards this supervisor has become really serious.

I really want to solve this because I am going to start another degree with a new supervisor, and want to know if there are people who also suffer from this. Please let me know about it and how you deal with this supervisor phobia!

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Why are you afraid of them? Have they bullied you, have they been overly critical or are you afraid of their authority? I don't think you can address the phobia unless you identify the initial cause of it.

Though I am in a similar position with my second supervisor. Honestly it is more awkwardness than a phobia. But I think I have talked with my second supervisor 3-4 times in person during the last 2 years. I am socially awkward with people I don't know well and I hate making small talk with her. She is friendly, if not somewhat direct, but I don't feel comfortable. I occasionally email her and my main supervisor is good friends with her though I avoid having to talk with her in person to the extent, I avoid talking with her at all. My main supervisor knows about this and thinks it is irrational. I know I need to get past this barrier but I keep delaying it. If I were to do it again I would have gotten to know her better when I first started. So PaperOrPerish, if you have any good ideas please share.



I think it’s a bit of everything from both sides that led to this situation. There was a long period of time when my supervisor was very stressed and (s)he was not particularly friendly to the students. I have always been a socially anxious person so I took the unpleasant social interaction personally. At that period of time almost every meeting included some of his/her opinion about me being a bad researcher and a weak person because I could not handle stress very well (I had clinical depression and anxiety, which (s)he was well aware before accepting me).

I know I am not the brightest student to begin with but (s)he made me feel like a pile of dirt. Most of the students admitted after me changed lab sooner or later afterwards, so I am actually pretty proud of myself for going through the whole study.

It seems that you got along well with your main supervisor, which is really good! For me, I really just relied on Xanax to shake away the anxiety. For a while I would freeze before him/her and it was not helping with our discussion at all. With Xanax I was able to slowly open up my mind and it helped me finish my thesis. Is it okay for you if you and your second supervisor engage in academic conversation though?