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Anyone having supervisor phobia?


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?


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!

Corrections and depression, are my meds working?

Hi Carlucio,

I know it must have been really hard for you to balance your work and your mental health. Been struggling with the same thing throughout my study as well. I had started to take 25-50 mg seroquel xr daily shortly after I started my graduate study. Over time I just felt more calm about the idea of deferring and failing the experiments while the apathy kicked in and I just could not get anything solid done.

It seems that your supervisor is supportive of (or at least is aware of) you taking medication for the mental health problem, which is good. My supervisor, while aware of my problems, was really unhappy with my apathy and lack of motivation. He attributed my apathy to my personal qualities instead reaction to the meds I was taking. I think you have done a good job in informing your supervisor your situation.

Personally, I would not recommend terminating your medications without your doctor's consent. What I did was I explained to my psychiatrist how cognitive demanding my work was and how the medication was affecting me. We then titrated the dosage (and added another med called abilify) so that I can continue to work without compromising much of my mental health. It will be nice if you also bring this to your psychiatrist and discuss a viable plan for you.

Remember why you needed to take the med at the first place. Although you may gain back your alertness coming off antidepressant, being in a depressed state does not help you with clearing your mind for the corrections. When I was in my bipolar state (hypomanic or depressive), I was more prone to making mistakes which I was unaware of at the time. Not taking medication may produce other problems as well. Again you should find a viable solution by seeking for professional opinion.

Of course, it is a lot easier said than done. I have also gone through the terror of losing my mind being mentally unstable and/or affected by the medication. What's important is have faith in yourself and gain back the control of your life.

Anyone feels like they are doing everything wrong?

Thank you guys for your support!

monkia, thank you for reminding me to persevere for what I love. I have forgotten that for a while already given what has happened in the past few years. I have been setting up routines to avoid making mistakes again but it does not work 100% of the time. Deep down I still love doing research, but wonder if I am still good enough for it. Thank you for giving me the confidence again.

pm133, I have been in academia for 3 years by now and have nothing to show people. I have taken a really ambitious project for my thesis and been struggling to make it work. I only have one 3rd author paper but I guess people do not really care for that.

orchid11, that must be terrifying! Seems like you have a very nice supervisor though. I think part of the reason why I am so beaten down is that my supervisor takes my mistakes seriously and criticizes me a lot of times, while he always seems like a saint who never makes mistakes. I now even developed phobic responses to him. But I will not give up, at least for now. Thank you!!

Anyone feels like they are doing everything wrong?

Just wanna know if anyone feels the same way as I do. I have been in academia for a few years now and feel like I have been making mistakes all the time. I have made mistakes (tiny or big) for every project that I have involved in. I feel so bad about myself and can’t stop blaming myself, wondering myself if I should still stay in academia. I regret choosing this path now but it seems so difficult to turn around. My self confidence is so low now I am convinced I will not succeed wherever I go. Anyone with me? Or should I really leave academia?

going to HK for PhD after Bachelor vs. staying in Europe for the Master

I would not know how to make the decision if I were you, but maybe I can chip in to add a few points here.

The reputation of the university matters if you want to stay in academia. In universities in HK, only a few (if not none) of the faculty members have a PhD in local universities. It depends on what kind of academic jobs you want or which universities you would like to work at later in life.

However, whether your potential supervisor has a good network will also contribute to whether you will get a good job later. If the professor is a well known one, it may help you get a better position in spite of the ranking of university.

From my personal experience, one of the most important but usually neglected factor is lab atmosphere. It determines the quality of your 3-4 year PhD life. A good working environment is a real gem and you should definitely weigh it more!

Last but not least, where do you want to settle? If you choose to study PhD in HK, chances are that you will stay in Asia (at least from what I see here though there are some exceptions as well). Is it really somewhere you want to stay?

Good luck!

Applying for PhD this or next year

Thank you very much for your encouragement! It means a lot to me! I am now a lot more confident to apply for it.:)

My master years have been really tough for me for multiple reasons. My supervisor has been crushing me and unhappy with my productivity. However, I can never live up to his expectation, especially with the side effects I suffer with the medications for my mental health issues (e.g., poor concentration and fatigue). I guess that’s why I have been so demoralised. Regardless, I will give it a try and let fate (or the potential supervisor) decide the rest. Thank you rewt again for your support!

Applying for PhD this or next year

I am currently deferring my mphil graduation because I took on an ambitious project and could not find good results (I know for a lot of people the results of an mphil thesis does not matter, but it's a long story). I expect to finish it by the coming December/January.

I have wanted to apply for a PhD position in a renowned institute this year, but I hesitate now given my situation. I have only one third author publication. I have acquired a lot of technical skills relevant to my field of research (neuroscience) but I have no other publication to prove that. On top of that, I have burnout from the past two years of research experience. I know I still love research but I am tired of it.

I have met my potential supervisor once and emailed him/her afterwards to ask for a graduate position. He/she responded positively in the first email but did not reply me after I sent him/her my CV. I am worried if he/she does not like my profile now.

Should I apply for the PhD position this or next year? On the one hand, I have already contacted the potential supervisor and I really want to start my PhD in the coming school year. This way I can publish my mphil thesis (if possible) and have a few months of rest before embarking on PhD. On the other hand, I don't think my current profile is good enough to ensure admission. I want to consolidate my fundamental knowledge (like programming and physics) before I start my PhD. Besides, having one more year, I can publish one or two first author article and hopefully increase my chance to be admitted.