How has your PhD changed you?


Do you think a PhD can trigger a mid-life crisis in your late 20s? Do you think can turn you into a disconnected individual? Grumpy? Impatient? Short-tempered? Pfff...let me just, metaphorically, put my brain on a lab bench for a second so you can have a look at it. I know it sounds melodramatic, but it's been a horrible few weeks. Let me explain.

My mood currently ranges from very briefly being happy and jumpy to most other times being in the depths of despair, several times a day. Objectively and rationally, I have no need to be because nothing has really changed over the past year, it's all the same. I'm still working really hard everyday and I like to think I'm making progress, my supervisors are really happy with me, but I feel like shxt. Sleep consists of a Kalms induced haze, which doesn't knock me out until around 3am (still waiting for it to kick in now) so I feel totally drugged up the next day.
I'm living with my family at the moment and I've stopped talking to them properly, not because they've been rude. I just feel really resentful towards them, and they've done nothing wrong - I don't know why because I've no reason to They must think I'm such a jumped-up idiot.
I honestly just feel like life is passing me by and I don't know what to do with myself. I work on my PhD everyday and nothing will stop that, but I have seriously thought about just packing it in. It won't happen though because there's nothing else for me to do. I won't have any purpose then.
But I don't laugh much any more, I don't make other people laugh and I'm not very cheery. I'm quiet, withdrawn, don't really feel comfortable around other people, at the moment, because they must think I'm strange. So yeah, really not that good.
In other news on how my PhD has changed me though, I've quite an impressive bursa on the middle finger of my right hand through all the writing with a pen I do (I'm old fashioned in that I have to my PhD in pen before I then type it up) and have got very short finger nails, so can prepare food much more hygienically than that Jamie Oliver ever can.
It would be nice to here how doing a PhD has changed other people, hopefully in much more positive ways (up)


I'm fatter.

Currently, that is all.


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I have to wear glasses instead of contacts because my eyes are so dry from staring at a screen. I have big green eyes, they're my best feature, and now they're hidden by specs and I'm vain and I HATE IT.

On a more serious note, I recognize everything you've said in myself Wally. I'm not sure there's a solution- if there is, let me know won't you?



The old PhD changes...thankfully I think many of them aren't permanent Wally, my lovely boyf went through exactly what you've just described in the final 18 months, as a result many of my friends cannot understand why I'm still with him, but I know the truth!  He is now back to his normal lovely self though, so the moods do settle! I am experiencing it now too though, so hopefully he can stick it out this time!  Yesterday was a bit of a blow out, I left work in the afternoon and slept for a while, did nothing yesterday :$

How has it changed me?  I now have absolutely no time for people who don't talk about 'real' stuff, if a conversation revolves solely around clothes, who's dating who and how drunk someone was last night, I don't want to know. My mum told me I've become 'snobby with my mind' whatever that means.  I also feel like I must work all the time and get irrationally angry with fellow students who complain about little things.

I'm sure there are lots of positive things, can't seem to recall any right now though...  ;-)


I think I have developed some sort of Social anxiety syndrome. I feel that I have had 3 years in solitary confinement in archives and my office and I just can't cope with social situations and have little tolerance for people talking about frivolity ( fun, clothes, celebrity tattle,etc). Surely this solitary confinement is some sort of torture technique? It can't be right....perhaps that why we all feel so desperate for so much of the time?
How on earth did PhDers cope pre-PhDforum?
Thanks for being there virtual-friends!


I'm fatter :-(
I have no determination or ambition and generally feel like the most useless person on the planet. I said to my fiancé yesterday "jobs are for clever people" :-(
I'm happy sometimes, but mostly I'm despairing to be honest. Plus, I'm in my 4th year. I've been writing up since August and I really really need to finish. I actually just want to cry because I'm that bad at everything.

Does that answer your question?

Avatar for sneaks

I'm fatter - in fact I've just tried a pair of trousers on that fitted (with room) in january and now I can't even get the buttons to meet :$ I WILL be losing half a stone in the next 2 weeks!

I have lost ALL dress sense - I have NO style anymore. I wear joggers and a hoody at home - even days like today where its boiling. I wear black/grey clothes when i have to go to uni or look smart - so nobody notices me basically. I see people wearing fashionable clothes and feel sick! I have NO confidence to wear clothes like that anymore.

I am poor - I never have enough money, which has made me jealous of all my friends who went straight into work :-s This is part of the reason my wardrobe is so drab.

I too am developing a social anxiety disorder. I haven't left the house for 4 weeks now (apart from dog walks in the field behind the house). I'm due to go into my sponsoring company today and feeling quite nervous about the whole thing. I'm not used to seeing people! I will probably run home as soon as my meetings are over.

I am starting to resent my husband, because he hasn't finished his PhD yet and is talking of not bothering - so it feels like I won't be able to use my title when/if I get it, which is one of my motivators :-s

Good things - I've learnt how to work independently? (as if I didn't do this anyway!)


Wow, sounds like lots of people are having a really hard time of it! Maybe I'm just deluded because I'm only halfway through but overall my PhD experience has been a really positive one. I have become more and more interested in my topic over time to the point where I am that fascinated by some aspects that I lie awake at night thinking about it all. I have realised that I really do want a career in research although I know that it will be tough and competitive etc. I'm a lot more confident than I was in many ways and have made a lot of really good pals- I think that has been easier for me than some people though because there is quite a big team of us working on similar topics and I have also made a lot of friends through my teaching commitments. I enjoy writing papers, I enjoy testing, there isn't much about my PhD that I don't like. I have found teaching a bit stressful at times and have also been really stressed about my workload some of the time, I think that's the only downside I can think of really. I have supervision this afternoon and have planned the whole 'reducing the workload by scrapping the follow-up study' conversation for then, though I don't suppose it will go down very well! I guess all this might change when I get to writing up stage, and then I will have a better feeling for all the negative effects of a PhD. Oh yes, and I've put weight on too! Seems to be a common theme! Best, KB


Hi Walminski

Nice to hear from you - but sorry you're feeling so down. Have been wondering what's happened to a lot of the old-time regulars lately, people don't seem to be posting as much.

AQ, I hear ya! I also have no time for people who talk about inanities - but then, I've never been good at small talk, probably why I don't have many friends...;-)

Walminski, what you're going thru sounds normal to me. Horrible, but normal. I also don't have much fun, don't laugh, and am not much fun to be around. I also resent people who don't fully understand how horrible this process is. All I can say, is hang in there, keep writing, go out, go to the pub, have a few lagers, whinge about the thesis, and try and have a bit of a life.

My PhD has changed me too, and not for the better. I've always been cynical, but now am really cynical about all the wasted time and effort I'm putting in for zilch, as there's no academic jobs and even if there was, I don't want some crappy short-term, low-paid contract. So I'm more cynical; my thesis also makes me feel more stupid, as I'm such small fry compared to everyone else in my field. I'm also resentful, as I should've chosen a topic which was more mainstream, not some niche area no-one apart from me and my supervisor cares about. Oh - and did I say I'm also bitter?

As for physically, well - deteriorating eyesight, a pain in my shoulder that won't go away, sore joints in my fingers, weight gain, and the list goes on...

So Walminski, misery loves company, and you've got company here! Push on, we can't stop now, and once this is done, that's it, I'm never doing another one.

Avatar for Eska

======= Date Modified 28 Apr 2010 11:42:38 =======
Hi Wally, sorry to hear you are feeling down, although, as Sue says, it is good to hear from you again. I've been wondering how you are...

I know people are saying this is normal for the latter stages of a PhD, but it sounds like depression to me, maybe you could do some of things that combat depression, like engaging in nice, sober, upbeat company, excercsing, trying to have laugh. I hope this doesn't sound too naive or simplistic, but these are the things that got me through a similar period during the final year of my degree when all the lights went off for me; they didn't cure it, that came gradually, after I'd finished, but it did get me through. I had a p/t job in a very nice, friendly pub full of regulars, for which I did a couple of hours 3 lunch times per week, and it was a life saver.

Also, I think l living with family is very hard at the best of times, but when you don't have alternative, regular social contact, such as work or a department near by, then I imagine it's horrendously stiffling.

Doing a PhD has made me fatter, it's much harder to lose weight; poorer - I take home less than a stipend would be, and I work my jollies off; much more thoughtful and considered about things generally, but it has also made me less intellectual outside of work, I really value talking nonsense, like latest fashions, and general daftness. But I'm part so I don't have to deal with the full onslaught of PhD solitude and routine.

I wish you well Wally, and know you will get there soon, and that you'll find Super Wal, the funniest forumite again soon too. XX

OH! and I meant to say: Many people I know have gone through a late 20s mid-life crisis type of thing. It seems to be a watershed period of getting depressed, sorting things out and making changes, for some people. That's what I did when I was in my late 20s in myy final year of degree depression) and so have a lot of people I know.


Quote From algaequeen:

I now have absolutely no time for people who don't talk about 'real' stuff, if a conversation revolves solely around clothes, who's dating who and how drunk someone was last night, I don't want to know. My mum told me I've become 'snobby with my mind' whatever that means. 

Seems like this is a common one, I thought it was just me. I can't stand being in the kind of cheap and cheerful nightclubs and bars I used to frequent when I was younger because I just don't fit in anymore. I don't know how to have a 'normal' conversation. In some ways though, I think this has been a really positive thing. I never entirely enjoyed that sort of thing and used to think I was a freak and some friends told me I took things 'far too seriously' just because I wanted to talk about other things than shoes and celebrities. Since starting the PhD I've realised there's nothing wrong with that and in fact there are people who are far more esoteric and anti-social than even me!


I thought I would try to tip the balance a little bit in this thread and focus on some of the positives.

I have more confidence in myself at the moment - probably due to submitting weekly drafts of work I'm doing and getting good constructive (and not always positive) feedback.

I have set myself goals and feel I'm achieving them. This might only be small weekly things like writing so many words or reading up on stuff but I'm getting there. I have been at this Phd business 3 months now and should have a finished 1st draft of my 1st chapter done by the start of June.

I think I'm developing a critical eye. I make judgements more quickly on books and don't waste time trying to take in every last detail. Title, contents, index, first paragraph, last paragraph, out of there.

I think I've overcome my fear of the writing process. I would stare at the screen and put off writing til the last possible moment. Now I just wade in and write without rereading til I'm finished a section.

Saying all this I would like to join the fat brigade, I've got a back muscle issue from sitting all day, I'm recovering slower from my weekly football match, I have less time to play Pro Evo, I haven't even looked at Football Manager this year, and I have no money.

But I believe I will do this and so it will all be worth it.


Sorry to hear things are tough Wal. You'll push through and may find your mood improves towards the end. (sprout) (the brussel sprout of encouragement)

For me the PhD has been a real mixed bag. At worst the constant sense of inferiority I have felt, the quest for perfectionism, and the wondering if I will fail all contributed to an already troubled relationship with eating. For a long time before and during the PhD I would control my food intake to feel in control. This made me the thinnest I have been since I was a 15, as a 26 year old man, especially when I was on a fellowship overseas and ate around 1000 calories a day. Only now, almost near the end have I begun to eat properly again. I have also recently problems with grinding my teeth which have to be prevented at night with a mouthguard - this was I think directly related to the stress of completing the penultimate thesis draft recently and financial worries. I also worry about the future, wonder if the thesis was the right thing to do.

I am also very aware that my historical research area is rather niche i.e. insane. And that although the papers I write are interesting, people read them for the "cute" or "endearing" value rather than take them seriously, I think. I think most people reading my work would doubt my sanity.I worry a lot about my financial future, as I am not very employable

On more positive notes, the PhD has enabled me to travel to conferences and live abroad for a bit, learn a new language, as well as improved my writing skills and self-presentation (when I am not a wreck!). It has also taught me to think critically and given me knowledge of a particular historical culture. Not really marketable skills but def. ones to value personally.


And Walminski, why aren't you living in your little house on the hill? Has something gone wrong?

Avatar for Batfink27

I can totally relate to the putting on weight thing! But I gave up smoking three months ago which is partly responsible for that. Now I go swimming at least twice a week and with the weather improving I go for walks near home, so I'm hoping that all of that together will help with the weight and also with some of the feeling of being buried under work and having no life.

When I did my Masters degree I was working at the same time, and 2 years of effectively having no time off at all and always feeling like I was running to catch up put a huge dent in my self-confidence - not in terms of academic stuff, but definitely on the social side. I feel it now a little bit - I go to the pub with my boyfriend and find I'm struggling to make small talk with the people we meet up with. And I don't really care that much! I used to think it would be hard to do academic work all the time, but that was when I had a job and pretty much hated work and spent all my time looking forward to evenings and weekends. Now I love what I do. But I'm still a first year - I can totally imagine feeling the way other people are describing when I'm getting closer to the end of the process. Though maybe knowing just how horrible it can be to be working full time (15 years in employment before my PhD!!!), and knowing what I'm escaping by being a student, will actually keep me from getting too despondent? Maybe. I'll see, I guess.

Anyway, everyone says a PhD is tough, so we have to remember, this is possibly the biggest challenge of our lives. It's hard to think positively when everything's weighing down, but I guess we just have to keep inching forward, knowing we'll get there in the end.