Going through depression because of my PHD


Started my Phd in 2006 in Canada, it is taking so long , even I have been succesful in publishing, I do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. My parents do not live here, my friends are my lab members who are so jealous and who only want to stab each other. I am becoming more and more this angry person and my poor husband is the one who suffers the most since I am constantly on his case. I feel I have wasted my life with this PhD, I need some one to help me through this. My supervisor is a very difficult person to work with, all the students have suffered. anyone? I have no more experiment to do, I have written my last paper that my supervisor refuses to read, but I feel so depressed that I can not start writing my thesis.


I reccomend that you seek medical help as soon as possible. Perhaps your university has a counselling service or somebody you can talk to? Or you will need to see a medical practitioner.

My ex-boyfriend had (or has still, I don't know) depression and got angry too with his phd and life in general. I would encourage you to seek help both for yourself and (by extension) to help your husband.

On a positive note you say you have done your experiments and what remains is to write. This is a good position. See help to gain control of the depression and it might make work more bearable or seem achievable.


If you are seriously depressed you need to get professional help. Does your university offer a counselling service? If so consider using this. Also you could go to see your family doctor.

I hit a very low patch half-way through my part-time PhD, due to coping with life-threatening illness. Actually the counsellors couldn't relate to what I was going through. I got more help from the university chaplain, who was used to life and death situations. This was despite me being an agnostic and a chaplain the last person I'd normally go to! And I got help from my GP to cope with related anxiety, taking anti-depressant medicine which has made a big difference to me.

Do you have a second supervisor you can talk to about your PhD and ask to read your paper? If so use this opportunity.

Good luck.


I can relate to how you are feeling as I had a difficult time too during my lab work stage and felt isolated which was not helped by a supervisor that is similar to yours. What I found very useful was talking to friends who went through it with their supervisors and the same situation at other uinis. It's only then that you begin to realise that it's not just happening to you and that other people suffer too. Of course I wouldn't wish a bad supervisor on anyone but the best way of dealing with one is to talk about it with friends that understand and have been in the same situation and in that way you can both help each other. It provided entertainment as you can see how ridiculous the supervisors are and no matter where you are the issues are still the same. It really helped me keep my sanity - and it's only then when you realise how many awful supervisors there are and how inept they really are!!! You need to get it off your chest. People with normal decent supervisors just don't understand!!!

PhDs by their nature are very isolating as I had this idea that it would be just a light hearted fun atmosphere with everybody working together before I started. However I found this was not the case as PhD students are a very insecure bunch as I think the stress of doing one brings out the worse in most people which shows through people's insecurities and the way they sometimes act. It's a big deal to get to do one so most people feel like really insecure I think and unsure of themselves, what they are supposed to be doing as you are left alone to get on with it so there is a lot of tension around that you can just feel in the atmosphere which doesn't create a good working environment. There is jealousy around as people often have to fight for their slice of the pie (the size dependent on where they are in the pecking order) so will guard it well. Who says academia isn't competitive????

As you have done all the experimental work you've done the hard part so you don't need to go back to the lab so you can find somewhere away from uni to work. I found this also helped as I felt more relaxed being out of the situation and actually got alot done. As you have even published you're well on your well there. Do your publications count as part of your thesis or are they separate?

And remember to take time out to chill out and relax as you can't work all of the time. Make time to do things you like and enjoy and get away from it all - though I know the guilt you feel when you not doing your it but remember you've earned your break so you can go back to writing refreshed. I am sure your husband will agree too.

All in all remember that you're not alone in all this and talking to other people helps especially people who have been through it. Talking on this forum also helps as you can also see that many people have problems too. Some just manage to hide it better than others but here it doesn't matter as it's anonymous.

As for you supervisor refusing to read your work - it happens and it's their loss!! Is there another supervisor you could ask or another academic in the dept who is willing to help. With awful supervisors other people are often willing to help as they know what the person is like. Just remember when you get that PhD it's because of your hard wrok and determination which will really show your supervisor up!!!

Good luck - hang in there and you'll be okay!!! Just remember your supervisor is the one with the problems and the others are probably just as insecure as you. Just had a thought - what about doing outside hobbies so you are not stuck indoors facing your thesis all the time which is demoralising. You need to get out and do different stuff. If you join a group with similar interests as you that'll give you a common thing to talk about.

(up) You can do it and let us know how you get on. :p


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Hey there! I know what it is like to suffer from depression as I have bipolar disorder, and depression is a major part of that for me (sods law, I'd rather have the mania!!). But seriously, I can understand why you are finding it so hard to work with that going on- anyone would do. I think you need to sort the depression out first. I would visit both your GP and your university counselling service- the one at my university have been a lifeline for me and are the main reason I am still at university, studying for my third degree. Without them I would never even have got through my BSc. It sounds like you have actually done the bulk of your PhD, and if you can sort your health out then you will probably have no problems finishing it off. A bad relationship with your sup can make things difficult, but doesn't mean you can't succeed. But first, I would take some time out, have a change of scene for a couple of weeks, see the doc and get yourself feeling better before tackling the thesis. It can be hard just to take time out, I know, but from my own experiences I know how valuable it can be to just remove yourself feom the situation for a while and come back to it. Best of luck, and hang around on the forum for support! KB


Hi Phdsuffer,

I'm sorry to hear about your problems with your Phd life. I have had problems with anxiety and depression for years now, and I'm in a lab-based PhD too, so I can empathise, at least to an extent. As others have said, you've done the lab work, which I think is the hardest part, and you should be very proud of yourself for this. You seem to be nearing the end of it now - when you say you don't see any light at the end of the tunnel, how do you mean?

It also sounds like you're feeling quite isolated, apart from your husband, who they gets the brunt of the problems you experience. Does he know how you feel? And as others have suggested, is there a counselling service or, at the very least, a GP who you could talk to about this?

What you're going through doesn't sound like fun, but feel free to post more here...



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Thanks all, I made an appointement with a GP. I will let you all know. I had another anger episode today and realized I need to seek help.


I'm not sure if the depression is due to the Ph.D. per se.....would it make you less depressed if you stopped?
That's not to belittle how you're feeling though! I was at the point of wanting to jump off a very high bridge at one stage, and I empathise with how you may feel.

There are many potential solutions which all depend on you. Medical or pharmacological intervention may help, but you taking a bit more control may also help :)
Ph.D's are tough mentally as is much of life. I've personally turned to Buddhism .....I'm not suggesting that you do this for a second but using some basic Buddhist teachings may help:

Pain and suffering is inevitable for everyone in life and when you learn to accept this, it is likely that you will become more content and happy.

If you concern yourself with what you are in control of, rather than about others who you cannot control, you will become more content and happy. Research makes others act in a way that they may not normally and very few consciously act to hurt others.

If you learn from the PhD process, then you will not have wasted anything. During mine, I was stressed, overworked, clinically depressed, angry etc..... much as you probably are just now. I had two vivas and very nearly failed.....I had a supervisor who wasn't the best for my learning style, who I perceived to be unsupportive. Yet, I am now a Dr :) I have no regrets, I have a great job and I'm very philosophical.

Stick with it, take control and good luck!


hi there I'm glad you've acknowledged your anger and are going to get help for it.
please do see someone (counsellor, gp, chaplain, friend etc)
I emailed the university psychologist when I was feeling really down, but he was not around at that time, and somehow when he finally came back and replied my email, I was already feeling better and felt that I did not need the appointment.

Nevertheless I went ahead with the appointment with him and it turned out to be helpful (even though I was not feeling depressed at that time).

I also went to see a therapist about anxiety, and this is something that we do not do in our culture; it can be a very closed asian culture where we do not speak to people about our issues etc. so I was not used to this; paying someone to listen to my complains.
In many ways it was very difficult for me to open up to someone I didn't know (and still have to pay her for it! HAHA)
but I found that I felt happier and lighter after the session; and she (the therapist) did serve a purpose to help me (though I was then £30 poorer).

take care and do post back and let us know how you are doing
love satchi


I think going to GP is a good idea; also the advice to go to psychologist or chaplain is good; I know drugs are not the solution to everything, but in my case after one of the periods of intense anger and anxiety due to my supervisors I went to GP and the medication really helped. It sounds like the environment you're in is not suitable for you and has bad influence, although at least others have suffered too (other phd students in my department think the sun shines out of my supervisors' arse). Maybe try to find a hobby outside of the lab? Anything that can help you get to the end of this process and get a job somewhere else.


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Please read Dina Glouberman "The Joy of Burnout: How the End of the World can be a new beginning" - I read this recently after experiencing a really horrible outcome to my PhD - posted under Failed PhD on this forum - life won't get any better until you make some changes and you really do deserve to have a better life (and so does your husband!). Looking back now I feel I set a course for myself which led only to unhappiness and I forgot that I had choices. Don't suffer any longer than you have to. Very best of luck.