I keep crying :(


I don't know what is wrong with me at the moment but I keep crying and it comes right out of the blue. Yesterday I burst into tears in supervision without any particular reason and I've just done the same in front of another team member today. I feel like such an idiot (my sup doesn't know how to cope with crying students and pretty much called off supervision as she said I wasn't in any state to continue) and am worried she just thinks I'm an emotionally unstable and weak person who just can't cope with pressure. I wouldn't blame her for thinking that to be honest.

Is this just part of writing up? Normally I find writing pretty easy but it feels like I can't get anything right at the moment with my results chapters and I'm worried that I don't really know what to put in my thesis introduction or how to structure my discussion. I don't feel that stressed although I suppose I am pretty worried about finding a job and upset cos my uni counsellor is retiring next week (I've been seeing her for 7 years and she's been my rock- I know it sounds a bit pathetic but I'm really going to miss the support). I don't think I'm depressed or anything, I don't know what's wrong with me.

Anyone else going through the same thing?

Avatar for Caterpillar27

Hi KB,

I'm not at that stage of my PhD yet, but sometimes, generally, when I'm busy or stressed I can feel the same. It just comes over you unexpectedly, especially if someone is nice to you! Perhaps it's hormones too?

It usually lasts for a few days until I am less stressed - so perhaps take a step back for a moment and look at the positives in your thesis.

Try not to worry about your supervisor the PhD is a journey and bound to have highs and lows - I'm sure they've seen it before and will again!

Good luck KB xx

Avatar for Batfink27


I'm not at the same stage as you either, but I definitely recognise that random crying from when I was stressed in my job before my PhD. And stress was what did it - the pressure I was holding down inside me while I tried to get my work done just had to find a way out somewhere, like steam getting out of a crack in a sealed unit. Stress doesn;t always manifest itself in the same way, I suppose I'm saying!

If there is any way you can take a step back and do something to relive some of the pressure (even if it's just taking an afternoon off and getting out in the sunshine and having a relaxing walk with the sun on your face and no thoughts of work, or something like that) it would probably do you the world of good. Something to clear your head and let it all float away for a short while. Let all the pressure out and allow yourself to deflate for a while (hmm, maybe this metaphor isn't quite working...)

Anyway - be kind to yourself.....

Hope that helps!


======= Date Modified 25 May 2011 13:31:14 =======
Hi Keebean

just a word or two of support. Stress manifests itself in different ways for different people. The more stressed I feel the more I suppress it but then the more I resent people close to me for not recognising I'm stressed which is completely unreasonable on my part! I have a constant knot of fear in my stomach since I submitted a full draft to my supv last week. I can't stress how terrified I am that he will tell me how far from submission standard it is. HOWEVER, I was so stressed before I handed it over that I put on my airline face (previous existence!), put on the clothes I feel good in. As a result he said "how did you manage to complete a full draft, you must have worked very hard but you certainly don't seem stressed". Unreasonably, I drove home fuming!

You have gizzillions of publications behind you which should tell you how strong your work is. Your uni counsellor retiring at an inoportune time for you is really bad luck. However, that person may very well want to keep in touch with you considering you are so close to submission. Even if not, maybe it might be liberating to speak to somebody new. This write up and submission time is really stressful. I can't wait for it all to be over.


Hi KB,

I agree with the others and think it's down to stress.  You are probably just like a pressure cooker at the moment even though you don't feel stressed so crying is just your release mechanism.  Doing a PhD is emotionally tough as there is pressure from all sides being thrown at you and not to mention the pressure you put on yourself to do a good job so it is really like a rollercoaster!  I totally agree with Caterpillar's comment about people being nice which makes it worse.  Don't worry about looking bad as I'm sure your supervisor/team members have all seen it before and have probably been through it themselves though some may have forgotten what's like.  It's bad timing that your counsellor is retiring - maybe she can keep in touch or you can meet for a coffee or it might be good to get a fresh perspective.  I hope you get something sorted.

I think you'll be fine as you seem to have most things sorted out so just try to relax. It's natural to worry about your work and the job prospects are not exactly good at the moment which is tough.  As the others have said you need to take a break and get some distance from your work. Writing up is hard and takes so long! 

A suggestion is to make detailed chapter plans which you can submit to your supervisor for their comments before you start writing those chapters.  It really helped me as I could see where I was going. For the introduction I used to make notes every time an idea came to me about how to do the chapter and introduce the project.  By the time I was ready to write the chapter I had about 2 1/2 pages of notes which I just fleshed out and rearranged a bit so it was one of my less painful chapters to write and also saved me a lot of time. 

Good luck - it'll be over soon!  (up)


Hello KB,

It's definitely not pathetic to miss your uni counsellor, I think it's a normal reacton especially that you had been seeing her for a long time. IMO, the phd is a high-pressure job, not to mention that the nature of academia is all about exposing one's self to criticism, constructive or otherwise. I think the others are right, it is probably stress and the fact that we all try to keep it together despite the pressure and our vulnerability.

Hang in there :-)


Hi KB,

I was in a similar state while I was writing my last two analysis chapters. I used to stare computer for hours without doing anything, my mind was blocked so was my mental state. I even fell ill due to pressure and had to go to GP few times. Anyhow I managed to write the chapters eventhough they were not upto the standard of my supervisors' expectation. We can never meet that anyway but I am happy that by now I have all chapters ready and now need to develop into a complete thesis. You too will be over that phase. I just kept going thinking that I can't stop at this stage of my PhD. Keep faith in yourself and good luck !


KB, I'm really sorry to hear about your counsellor, I know what a great support she's been for you. And it's definitely not pathetic to have feelings about it, after 7 years of being that close to a person, it's so natural.

I know I've gone through phases where I'm more emotional (crying at adverts and such), but if you can't control it then it probably is more significant. If there have been no hormonal changes recently (such as a different brand of pill) then I suspect it is indeed the curse of the write-up.

Maybe take a little time to explore how you're feeling about these different stressors? I don't want to pop-psych you, but a thought occurred to me. Do you think you might be trying to "be strong" about all this stuff, because you know your counsellor won't be there to discuss it in future?

As for your sup, don't worry, if she can't handle emotion that really reflects on her not you. Practically every phd student I know has cried in front of their sup at some point! One of my most capable friends even burst into tears five minutes into her viva. :$


Hey Keenbean, sorry to hear that you are having a rough time. I can totally relate to what you are going through.

You are going through the hardest stage in the thesis writing, the-having-to-come-up-with-stuff-to-write-from-scratch stage. I found it really hard, and I equated to giving birth to something in terms of the mental and emotional pressure you go through (I, of course, have not ever given birth to a baby... I would assume giving birth is actually worse, but I don't know).

The thing I found useful was to not worry too much about the end product right now, and just write whatever you can. Editing is a much easier process than writing from scratch, but you can't do both at the same time. So don't worry about the fact that it's not the best thing you've ever written when you are first writing it. Just write it. You can make it better later.

I did this for my thesis, and I am now in the editing stage. Life is sooooooo much easier, I can see where to tweak, cut and add, much easier than if I had try to edit while writing.

Big hugs are coming your way through the wires :)


Thanks so much for your replies. It's been another rocky day in write-up land but I feel much better for hearing other people's experiences.

It's been really hard with the counselling thing- my counsellor has been really emotional herself over the last few sessions so I've been trying to avoid getting upset myself and making her feel even worse...I keep on digging up trivia to talk about and avoiding any real issues because I don't want her to feel bad about finishing when it's a really difficult time, and she's the kind of person that would. She's given me her email address so we can keep in contact- I know the relationship is supposed to have boundaries but after over 7 years the boundaries have gotten a bit blurry on both sides. She's not really local so I'm not likely to see her after she finishes. I was busy choosing a thank you present online to give the counselling service right before supervision yesterday so that's probably why I was a bit emotional and the tears came out at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

In all fairness to my supervisor she's been okay about it. She texted yesterday evening to check I was okay- I'm not quite sure whether she was genuinely concerned or she just wanted to check I hadn't launched myself off a tall building, but she didn't have to text. I think with my thesis I expected the results papers to be so much easier to write than the reviews and theoretical papers I've done, since the structure is much simpler, but for some reason I just haven't got to grips with them well and am just getting draft after draft back with so many corrections to do. But I've got drafts of everything except the discussion now and have a few months left, so should be okay. Even if it takes longer I'm only at the end of third year so it won't really matter.

But yeah, I will try to take a step back and not stress. It gets hard to see the bigger picture when you're so caught up in writing but you guys have really helped. Thanks (up) KB