PhD issues


Hi everyone

I am a second year PhDs student, recently I have become very down, I try and avoid social situations, for example I will chat to the guy on the desk next to me, but when everyone goes to the bar on a Friday I only stay for maybe 30 mins then make up an excuse to leave. My friends will sometimes call me and I will let it go to answer phone then come up with an excuse why I can't talk. I live in a house where I have two housemates, I mostly just spend time in my room alone, I eat alone, watch tv alone etc.. Recently I have begun working later and later as I feel I am not doing enough.

I always do extra at uni, ie. Showing guest lecturers around, out reach activities at weekends etc. but when it comes to my personal life I'm struggling with social interaction.

Does anyone have any suggestions with what's wrong with me or is there anything I can do?


Dear Giddypig,
There's nothing wrong with you. I know this from experience- I don't have that many friends even now, and when I was working before my PhD in the private sector I had zero social life and zero friends, and would never even go out with my colleagues. Having personal issues that crippled my self-esteem didn't help. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Figure out concretely why you are "very down", since that seems to be the reason why you avoid social situations. When I started my PhD, I did a list of all the things I hated about myself (physically, psychologically, etc…) and used the 3-4 year opportunity to do the PhD and address these problems. You need to figure out why you are unhappy with yourself- the reason why you avoid ppl is because you are insecure about yourself and don't want ppl to find that out; that was the case with me.
2. A PhD (unlike employment) actually does provide you with greater flexibility to manage your time. You don't have to finish in 3 years (I'm assuming no funding problems/issues). So make up some time to exercise, read, listen to music. It doesn't have to be social activities at first, but these things will help you feel better about yourself and this is when you'll have the confidence and desire to interact with ppl more.
3. List all the good things about yourself: remind yourself of your good personality traits, physical features that make you attractive, how you have improved over the years in certain areas to boost your self-esteem up.

Ultimately you avoid ppl to avoid having to expose your insecurities to the world, so only by solving your personal issues will you then be able to mend your social life.


Thank you so much :)


I know you said that you have only been feeling this way recently giddypig, and if you feel that something has changed and you are not always like this, then go with incognito's comments. However, if you have felt like this from time to time in your life before then consider my comments.

I am often exactly the way you are describing but I don't feel bad about not wanting to go to the pub with people because I would feel awkward or would just rather be alone, because there is nothing wrong with that. I am strongly introverted and I don't like to be around others all the time - so I might like the one to one social interaction with people I care about but not superficial pub chat with people that are not my friends. Society often sees this as there is something wrong with people like me and so there is a lot of social pressure to be sociable. Once I realized it was ok to be myself, I was much happier. Try reading 'Quiet - the power of introverts in a world that just won't stop talking' by Susan Cain. It's brilliant.


Nothing wrong with you, however if it is getting you down that you are doing these things alone, and you want to be more involved then there are ways to incorporate yourself into the social situations.

But, if your happy in what you are doing then keep doing it :)

I am a 3rd year PhD student and I am not one to go out to the bar at all! Lol so you do more than me already. The bar scene for me is not something I enjoy. Even as an undergrad, I never went to the social evenings etc. People just get drunk and act stupid. Plus I am 29 and married, so have other things I'd rather do.

However I have other interests and hobbies to keep me sane while doing my PhD. I am very active & go to the gym, snowboarding, hiking, etc. However the PhD was always on my mind, 24/7 thinking about my research. It was really getting to me. Thinking about it constantly was stressful. So I tried learning something new. My husband convinced me lol

I started Brazilian jiujitsu! Never did ANY other martial art ever in my life. So it was scary, but I am so glad I did it. The people are so friendly, it occupies your mind and its a great stress reliever. Plus you can interact without discussing your PhD all the time. Its a mini break from it. Learning something new seemed to give me a boost. I can think more clearly and I am not as stressed.

So maybe interacting with a new crowd of people might work??


Hi Giddypig
I'm another one, like TreeofLife, who tends to avoid these nights out like the plague anyway (and the 'Quiet....' book is on my pile of things to read at the moment!) Hats off to you for all the stuff you're doing and for house-sharing too - that would drive me to extremes of being unsociable :)
The key to this kind of thing, though, is whether you're happy with it. Only you know whether you're avoiding social situations because of some underlying confidence issues like incognito described, or whether it has just all become a bit much and you need some healthy time out and some head space.
I think a PhD makes such opposing demands of us - on the one hand, we have to be gregarious and able to network with strangers at the drop of a hat, and on the other we have to be able to work in an intensely isolated way a lot of the time - it is no wonder that we feel overwhelmed sometimes. I think the suggestion about finding some non-PhD related stuff to do is a good one - give yourself a break and do some things you enjoy.


Hi I am 3.5 year PhD student. At first I changed my advisor after 2 years because I was feeling like stuck. I had some work but my advisor was not confident because that work was also new for him. Later I changed to other advisor but after one year I found most of his research instruments are not functioning well so once again I found like stuck. I don't know how to move ahead.