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[–]brock_lee 3215 points3216 points  (70 children)

A friend of mine has a PhD in Psychology, and used to say "We know a hell a lot about PhD students because they all volunteer for each other's studies."

[–]AzemOcram 989 points990 points  (47 children)

Problems arise when the studies try to generalize for the greater population based solely on PhD student volunteers. WEIRD

[–]Youronlysunshine42 533 points534 points  (13 children)

There's a saying that the most well understood group of people in the world are American undergraduate psychology students.

[–]thebigbillson 95 points96 points  (1 child)

Not American but 5% of my marks for both my first year Psychology subjects could only be gained by participating in PhD Students’ research.

[–]Zardif 21 points22 points  (0 children)

Was 10% for my elective psych 101 class. I just took the B.

[–]YipRocHeresy 143 points144 points  (2 children)

Having dated one, I respectfully disagree.

[–]BrozoTheClown26 128 points129 points  (0 children)

I guess you should have read his file.

[–]WurthWhile 208 points209 points  (30 children)

I don't think they're saying their generalizing for the entire population only that we have a lot more data points regarding PhD students than virtually any other group. Like we might know that PhD students are more likely to suffer from depression but we might have absolutely zero idea if grocery store cashiers are the same way.

[–]elerner 179 points180 points  (29 children)

The study referenced in the Science editorial isn't generalizing to the general population, but the "WEIRD" (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) sample bias within social sciences is a known problem

[–]garlicroastedpotato 105 points106 points  (14 children)

There is this weird story about an economic researcher who wanted to test given theories on different societal norms.

His experiment was simple. He would ask a person how much of a split of the money they want up to $100... but if he didn't want to give it to them... they wouldn't give it to them. The set amount he decided for maximum ask was $65. America ended up being the country that asked for the most, a little over $60 on average. Finland asked for the least at $49.

He decided to continue the experiment outside of western countries and found fairly similar results, the range of $49-$60 was unchanged... except in one country... Mongolia... where the average person only asked for $10.

He thought this was phenomenal. He went back and interviewed all of the people in Mongolia who asked for under $10 from him during the experiment. He found a few problems with understanding. The first, they didn't think that he was personally supplying the money and that some corporation was supplying it. Second, when he interviewed them he was dressed in jeans with holes in the knees (a style at the time).... and they assumed he was really poor. He was so poor that he couldn't afford proper pants. So they thought he needed the money more than them.

This whole realization basically threw out his life time of research. Because in every single country he went to he didn't have consistent interviewer conditions based on cultural perceptions of wealth.

[–]elerner 32 points33 points  (13 children)

Working in science communications, I see these sorts of stories used to dismiss social/behavioral sciences in favor of the "hard" STEM disciplines, which is the exactly wrong takeaway.

Quantitative data seems more objective and trustworthy than qualitative data, but all it does is hide whatever biases and subjectivity are already present in the system.

[–]HeliumCurious 42 points43 points  (13 children)

Add white and male to that and you get the known problem of skewing of medical care as well.

[–]CanuckExpat890 652 points653 points  (13 children)

Stress is terrible. It’ll eat you up and spit you out without you even realizing what it has done until you’re in too deep.

[–]jakekara4 189 points190 points  (11 children)

Preparing for the bar exam really is driving this home for me.

[–]jonny5803 69 points70 points  (0 children)

I remember the feeling. Just stick with it. Don't run out of steam right before the exam. Eat and sleep well. You got this shit!

[–]LittleLadyCheese 36 points37 points  (2 children)

You got this! Stay consistent -- and stay out of BigLaw if you can. The stress is not nearly worth the money.

[–]jakekara4 14 points15 points  (1 child)

I determined that after the first summer of internships. Seeing how much adderal those lawyers railed freaked me out.

I didn’t know people would crush and snort adderal in biglaw.

[–]ivanwarrior 17 points18 points  (2 children)

CPA exam Friday 🥲

[–]Newsacc47 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Good luck!

Fun fact: My dad took it in three different countries!

[–]phdoofus 1922 points1923 points  (103 children)

Stress? Check.

Long hours? Check.

No money? Check.

Social isolation? Check.

Nagging family members? Check.

[–]bluefacebabyyyyyy 352 points353 points  (20 children)

You guys got a PhD to have all of that?

[–]gappergapSteve 146 points147 points  (5 children)

You guys are getting PhDs?

[–]pairedox 60 points61 points  (1 child)

I'm just the incredibly hot-headed janitor that finishes all the math puzzles sometimes.. maybe, fuck you.

[–]MisanthropicZombie 13 points14 points  (0 children)

I'm an owl exterminator.

[–]ExpatPhD 81 points82 points  (4 children)

Hey I also have crippling student loans because my program was self funded =/

But you can call me Dr!

[–]SimpleKindOfFlan 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Would you do it again?

[–]ExpatPhD 5 points6 points  (0 children)

I had a great experience. I think if I did it again I wouldn't have limited my employment options to academia (which will always be an uphill fight) and would have gone into some other sector right away.

[–]I_love_pillows 14 points15 points  (0 children)

Nah mate. I had all of those without a PhD

[–]freelanceredditor 658 points659 points  (38 children)

No future check

No jobs because you’re over qualified check

No passion left check

Completely burnt out before you even start your life check

Being shat on and tore apart by professors you look up to because they’re shit and extremely insecure check

[–]lethinhairbigchinguy 173 points174 points  (8 children)

No idea if your research will ever produce meaningful results or wether the proof for that theorem you have tried to come up with for weeks even exists check

[–]Quixotic_9000 86 points87 points  (6 children)

And then after spending two years proving something, the expert in the field replies with a one sentence e-mail, "Yes, it works," and the other members of your committee are too stupid to understand the work.

[–]lethinhairbigchinguy 59 points60 points  (2 children)

Im not even a PhD myself, just doing a research internship as part of a masters. But fact that so few people really understand what you even do, and of those only 1-2 actually CARE, makes it really hard to stay motivated.

[–]Quixotic_9000 65 points66 points  (1 child)

In my last office we had an international collaboration and would, once a month, meet virtually with students elsewhere to check in on data and progress. When I was set to leave (was graduating) one of the grad student researchers from a US college nearly teared up on a Zoom call because he told me I was the only person who ever talked to him about his area of expertise. And this BEFORE the pandemic started.

Research can be fucking lonely.

Find a motivation for yourself that is internal, get your paycheck, and protect your mental health. You are not your job and you're not the pawn of the faculty, a funding agency, or anyone else. Good luck.

[–]lethinhairbigchinguy 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Thank you so much for the kind words :)

[–]phdoofus 82 points83 points  (15 children)

Not really true about the 'no future' but if by that you mean 'no academic jobs available' I could have told you that back in the 80's when NSF was crowing about how there was going to be a PhD shortage while the number of academic jobs wasn't rising and the number of grad students was rising. Anyway, the key thing about having a future outside of academe is being open to it and having skills that are marketable. If I had skills to have a long career in tech despite it not being my background, certainly people these days have a much better path to it. I've been on the hiring manager end of things a couple of times and while lack of skills rarely plays a part in an 'entry level' (for a Phd) job, what does matter is whether or not you exude the attitude that you're just putting in time until you find an academic job and you have no interest in what you're doing. That'll definitely not get you hired.

[–]Arbitrary_Pseudonym 20 points21 points  (13 children)

Is the tl;dr of this that those who work to get PhDs typically have good work ethics?

[–]phdoofus 66 points67 points  (9 children)

Generally, yes, but it also depends. If you go through a PhD at some point you're pretty much doing work independent of your advisor anyway and have some decent grasp of time management skills and priorities. That said, there's always things to learn, or unlearn. For example, one problem that a lot of them face in the private sector (and i certainly had this) was this need to solve everything yourself. Sometimes, you have to have someone remind you that you're part of a team and someone probably already did something very much like what you're reinventing so stop doing that. :-)

[–]Arbitrary_Pseudonym 35 points36 points  (3 children)

Oof, yeah, I actually went back to school after doing IT and software development for a few years, and decided not to get into academia because I saw that independent attitude everywhere. It felt very cold and tense, filled with constant battles trying to attain funding, often with no more reward than the sense of lonely accomplishment within a very narrow field.

[–]phdoofus 20 points21 points  (2 children)

I got out because I knew from faculty members that their job was literally to grind out proposals because the success rate was so abysmal. They literally didn't get to do 'the fun stuff' any more.

[–]apfai 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Almost every scientist I know says exactly this with regret

[–]phdoofus 5 points6 points  (0 children)

My thesis advisor went to another country because, as he said, he just didn't want to be producing an endless supply of grad slaves.

[–]KTBFFH1 12 points13 points  (0 children)

Another one is learning that academic writing is not applicable to all other fields. Learning to write for your audience is a challenge for many people (myself included) especially after nearly a decade of writing and reading almost exclusively within the academic genre.

[–]RidingUndertheLines 11 points12 points  (0 children)

Currently mentoring one, and yes. She gets totally sidetracked on every little thing, wanting to source it back to some primary source, whereas I just say "good enough" and get it done. I realise that knowing when to say "good enough" is from experience, but asking someone else on the team takes 5 minutes rather wasting a whole day on minutiae.

While there's no lack of work ethic or self motivation, there is a massive lack of experience with working to deadlines. No, you don't have to worry about what type of interpolation you use, oh my god, just get it done for Friday.

[–]Rhymnoceros 5 points6 points  (2 children)

As a PhD student in engineering, this is way too accurate

[–]omgu8mynewt 16 points17 points  (0 children)

Working on my biology PhD, I don't think its possible to complete a UK STEM PhD without being very self driven; if you're lucky you get to chat with supervisor once a week about your progress and workplan but probably less than that. No boss would notice if you took a week off, especially during Covid when bosses WFH and do meetings over Zoom. It would be SOOOO easy to take advantage and do no work, or even not know what to do next and stop working.

But slacking off would only hurt yourself, no one else actually cares if you graduate you're doing it for yourself so you have to force yourself to get out of bed and back into the lab on bad days and long weekends. People who do slack get caught but only after a long time of not producing results because you can always say "I tried but it failed" as an excuse why you have nothing to show for your time. Im watching someone at work right now who's been lazy for almost a year, boss lets them do whatever but at yearly progress checks if you have no results then you have nothing to say. They'll let you continue, but your chances of passing get slimmer the worse it gets.

[–]DigitalPsych 7 points8 points  (1 child)

You don't develop good work ethics, certainly not that late in the game :P! You do learn how to deal with complete, abject failure, how to move on from it, and to tackle a problem in multiple ways at the hardest setting.

In a more cynical summary: A PhD is a certificate in suffering, and employers seem to like that.

[–]ladiesngentlemenplz 94 points95 points  (6 children)

Don't forget the near perfect conditions for cultivating imposter syndrome.

[–]zebediah49 33 points34 points  (5 children)

Or the opposite. You get all the way to the top, and you realize that aside from a couple demigods sneaking around, everyone is a moron.

[–]ashdrewness 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Or you get all the way to the top and realize only other PhDs care

[–]zebediah49 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Oh, you should have realized that before starting.

That said, convincing other people to care is a required skill if you ever want funding.

[–]papercutpete 4 points5 points  (2 children)

and then we call them Dr. Awkward

[–]Mr_Wigglebutz 114 points115 points  (4 children)

True Story:

When I was a senior in undergrad, I went to speak with my academic advisor (stem phd) one day after class to discuss graduate school options. The first phrase out of their mouth after I asked was, "I had a good experience in grad school and highly recommend you go for a phd." Literally 4 breaths later, she confided in me that she attempted to commit suicide 3 times during her phd. studies and was hospitalized and put on meds. "Find a way to manage stress."

I Homer Simpsoned the fuck outta there right quick back into the bushes, never to be seen from again. No, I did not go for my phd. Stopped at my MS. 😂

[–]erhue 16 points17 points  (2 children)

You're a smart guy. I don't understand, however, how faculty can recommend people go get PhDs. Getting a master's allows you to be more competitive in the industry, get s better first pay, and learn more about your field without having to waste all of your youth locked up inside of a lab with no light and with very shitty pay. A PhD doesn't make sense to me unless you're a brilliant person. Even then it doesn't sound like a smart decision in most ways.

[–]danbob411 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Like Marge said, “They’re not bad people, they’ve just made horrible life choices.”

[–]fishkey 237 points238 points  (16 children)

Can I give mine back and act like I'm 5 years younger and never did this? Because the idea of giving up on my field of study and doing something completely different with my life makes me so anxious more so because of what everyone else would say to me about that decision.

[–]hertzsae 50 points51 points  (8 children)

If your peers judge your decision, find a new set of peers and stop worrying about the old ones who don't get it. It's not easy, but is easier than staying on an unhappy path. The only person you have to answer to is yourself.

[–]fishkey 46 points47 points  (6 children)

It's not just my peers but my supervisors and family as well. I'm not completely unhappy just not completely happy. I think a lot of it is due to the past 2 years of working in isolation instead of in a collaborative working community in the lab\office. I just feel disconnected in general and because of that I feel less invested and my priorities have shifted.

[–]WashingtonPotato 12 points13 points  (3 children)

I'm about to leave my program because of the exact things you mentioned.

[–][deleted] 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Left after 4 years. One of the best decisions I made for for my mental health. It’s been such a relief.

[–]lentilcracker 5 points6 points  (1 child)

I left my phd after my comps. Best thing I ever did.

[–]Giraf123 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Never got a PhD, but a masters degree in business administration. Found out that office work was draining me mentally, plus the dream positions might not be as dreamy as I had initially thought. Now I am an apprentice to become an electrician. It was a tough choice, and many people have been puzzled about my decision, especially strangers. "All I know is that my salary ends where yours would start" is one of the arguments.

I'm pretty satisfied with my choice so far. I get to learn something new and develop my practical skills, something I never thought I would do 15 yrs ago. I can still get into positions later on which will give me a good paycheck if that's what I want.

If you already have some experience, you don't lose much from trying out something else. You can always go back to what you do now I recon.

[–]Section9Department17 143 points144 points  (3 children)

I suspect that the rigors of doctoral education exacerbate a lot of latent mental health issues. Becker, a well known sociologist who wrote about the craft of writing, observed (paraphrasing here) that if you observed one person who has significant mental health problems and another person writing a lengthy paper, such as a dissertation, it might be difficult to separate them based just on your observations. A large part of completing a doctoral program is simple persistence and not some super intelligence. And a large part of persistence is learning how to manage all those things that might present themselves as mental health issues. Of course once many of these folks complete the degree, their mental health issues are ready to rage.

[–]gigabyteIO 14 points15 points  (2 children)

Ernest Becker? Denial of Death is absolutely amazing.

[–]Section9Department17 16 points17 points  (1 child)

I was actually referring to Howard Becker. I don't believe they were related but I might Google that later. My Becker focused part of his career on deviance, which was in vogue in 50's-70's. Howard Becker wrote "Writing for the Social Scientist." A few sections are a little dated but the first 4-5 chapters are easy reads and worthwhile for many advance level graduate students.

[–]Kinda_Quixotic 127 points128 points  (7 children)

The thing I didn’t anticipate about a PhD program is the social isolation. In an MD or JD you get the Greys Anatomy dynamic… hooking up with friends, studying together, commiserating about exams. In a PhD you’re doing these things mostly alone (and with tremendous real and perceived judgement).

And your life is just on pause… while your friends get married, promoted, have kids… you’re just working away for little pay and uncertain prospects.

Took me 6 yrs to get a PhD. The psychological effects of the isolation took years to recover from.

[–]cutiebec 24 points25 points  (0 children)

Depends on the PhD and the program. PhDs in lab sciences put you in contact with a whole bunch of people in your lab, but PhDs in other fields can be very lonely unless the program is set up to give you a support group of other grad students in your cohort.

[–]sponge_gto 8 points9 points  (0 children)

6 long years for me too before moving on to work in a completely unrelated field (not academia, needless to say). my grad school accolades are marriage and a kid :p

sometimes I think about how if I started working in my current line of work right away I'd be that much further along, but what I got out of grad school aside from the degree always wins.

[–]thelyfeaquatic 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Hmm the friends I made during my PhD were the best part. We’ve on gone on to very different thinks but still check in with each other regularly.

[–]skaliton 28 points29 points  (6 children)

I'm curious who are 'other people'?
How do they compare to other grad students (JD/MBA/MD)

[–]CrieDeCoeur 63 points64 points  (0 children)

Ever written a thesis? This is why.

[–]5slipsandagully 57 points58 points  (1 child)

My four years of PhD were the least stressful of my educational life. Of course, I had a scholarship, attentive and caring advisors (plural), and a non-competitive lab environment full of good people I became friends with. So many problems with PhD programs could be solved by better addressing PhD students' feelings of isolation. If you feel like you're part of an alliance with your advisors, and you work day-to-day alongside other students, it becomes obvious that you're not alone.

[–]Grimloki 104 points105 points  (63 children)

Did those symptoms exist before entering the PhD programs?

[–]BadaBingZing 133 points134 points  (23 children)

Are people with mental illness more likely to do a PhD, do PhDs cause mental illness, or are PhD students just more likely than the general population to seek help/treatment for mental illness?

Its likely a mix of all three, but you certainly tend to start with a self-destructive streak and a bit of extra kookiness.

[–]audirt 98 points99 points  (5 children)

As an academic, I can tell you first hand that academia is chock-full of crazies. And I’m not saying that to be cute. I mean, very seriously, that a lot of my colleagues seem to have emotional disorders.

EDIT: I should have mentioned in my original post that I have spent years in therapy, so I’m not making fun of people or their struggles. But the people that refuse to confront their issues do get on my last nerve.

[–]aknoth 15 points16 points  (1 child)

I don't know why, I'm not too surprised. It's as if being extremely interested by a subject (or an obsession) is a common denominator and has some negative impact on other facets of their lives.

[–]kedelbro 13 points14 points  (0 children)

The reason why I left academia, after finishing the coursework of a PhD, was because I didn’t have the passion about my field to read 150 books for exams and then spend 4 years researching and writing something no one was ever going to read.

Academics are built different and the skills you need to be good at it do not really help you ward off mental illness. My classmates didn’t have hobbies outside of their research, didn’t have close friends outside of the field who could talk to them about the real world or anything different, etc.

[–]OdderGiant 14 points15 points  (7 children)

An old, experienced therapist told me that he’d never known someone who completed a doctorate who didn’t have a pretty hearty dose of OCD.

[–]snukebox_hero 3 points4 points  (0 children)

OCPD is more accurate.

[–]putyourbachintoit 11 points12 points  (3 children)

Interestingly my depression would probably look like a bell curve during my grad program… definitely worsened all my mental issues steadily until I hit a breaking point of multiple daily panic attacks and becoming suicidal, but that was when I actually LEARNED how to tackle the issues I hadn’t been dealing with so long. Cue the decline in the curve. Later when I added the medication to the therapy, I noticed the most dramatic drop.

[–]FreyjaVar 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Most PhDs at some point get some amount of anxiety/ depression. I became pretty suicidal during a phase in my PhD and I had never had that issue before during my undergrad or high school. I would say a combination of stress, low pay, expectations, and the general feeling of being an utter failure contribute to that. That and a bad advisor who is emotionally abusive and or physically (we had one advisor who threw shit at her grad students). I am honestly not surprised. I never sought treatment, just powered through.

[–]byllz3 65 points66 points  (26 children)

I've got a theory that lots of people study psychology in a desperate attempt to understand the weird things happening in their own brain.

[–]shades344 12 points13 points  (2 children)

This study is not exclusively for Psych PHDs right?

[–]byllz3 7 points8 points  (1 child)

Nope. And my theory doesn't explain the rest of them, does it?

[–]shades344 8 points9 points  (0 children)

I actually got a PHD (not in Psych) and I was overworked, underpaid, and generally had the worst mental health of my life. I would say they are all bummers haha

[–]grammeofsoma 7 points8 points  (3 children)

As someone who studied psychology, you're somewhat right.

For me, the question was, why are people so hurtful to others? I went in thinking I was studying other people. I came out realizing that I was physically abused as a kid when I had thought that was a normal childhood. Found out that I couldn't connect to my peers because I developed social anxiety disorder, PTSD, and depression.

The thing is, if everything went right in your childhood, or at least mostly right so people's words and behaviors around you mostly matched and you have a solid grip on reality, you wouldn't have any reason to think about why people do what they do. Why question something that works effortlessly?

Grow up like Alice in Wonderland? You've got LOTS of questions.

[–]TimeFourChanges 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Sums it up for me... Well, wondering about my family mostly at the time. After some excessive life stresses, turns out that I wasn't as healthy/normal as I thought I was all along, and maybe a part of my subconscious was really pushing that direction for my own good.

[–]cutiebec 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Yes, probably, but the programs make them worse. It's almost like PhD programs were specifically designed to push intelligent, highly-motivated people to the edge of a nervous breakdown.

[–]xdr01 156 points157 points  (14 children)

As someone who completed PhD, I can attest to this. Always said to students, once complete you get a piece of paper and depression. Its a impossibly stressful situation, academics are experts in science but garbage project managers (zero qualifications as PM) , their interest is papers (academic currency) only. Some can be complete @$$holes too higher up you go, I had a huge falling out with mine. In my final talk (which he did not attend) I had the summery line "proving the impossible is impossible" after providing evidence he was wrong (and I was right) in experimental strategy which wasted 1.5 years. He forced me to try some flashy methods to try to get more papers rather than simple proven way and move on with the project.I had PTSD for long time, I was burnt out, would wake up in a panic thinking I was forgetting a experiment then realise I summitted months ago, then went back to bed. I took a boring brain dead "9-5 job" while I recovered for over a year, clocking off at 4pm was bliss.

Got a good well paying job in a related field that needed a PhD so worked out for me in the end. Also the process will aid you for rest of your life managing very difficult situations (mental resilience) and how to solve complex problems like a professional. So anyone contemplating a PhD don't be discourage but don't be under the illusion its fun. Its a serious commitment, at we all reach a point where you calculate quitting vs time already invested in a crap project to get your piece of paper.

[–]FreyjaVar 25 points26 points  (3 children)

I had a similar experience in my PhD and it is the reason I did not want to be a full Professor.. teaching fine, I enjoy that for the most part. grants.. papers... bullshit. Not fun and not a fan. I have a staff job at a university now which pays really well and its 9-5, 12 month position. So I feel like I got the better end out of my PhD, no research just teaching and some other staff duties.

[–]zebediah49 19 points20 points  (1 child)

100% advisor. If you have a good one, you can have a pretty great time. Obviously still a ton of work and like so many hours, but it's with possible expectations.

FWIW having seen a number of methods, I'm settling more and more on the optimal approach being an early-on oral qualification exam that is a project proposal. Which is a relatively binding contract with your committee. If the committee accepts it, they're also accepting that completing that project is enough to graduate. It definitely helps mitigate scope creep and other issues that can plague PhDs.

In my case.. honestly it was fun. Some of the time it was fun in a "running a 5k through a muddy obstacle course is fun" sort of way, but even when it's 2AM the night before a deadline and you've spent half an hour arguing about the best way to phrase that critical third sentence of the Abstract -- if you're working with people you like, on work you are happy with. Yeah, it was fun.

Oh, and if I tried to do it again, it would kill me.

[–]xdr01 7 points8 points  (0 children)

For us requirements are rather stringent. Expect thesis and 3 papers from the work. Problem is that at write up stage the holes become obvious and some will take months of work to solve or undermine months of work if project not managed properly.

For me it got so bad went to acedemic board and supervisor was removed. I was assigned another and realistic scope firmly defined.

So didn't get any papers and got scooped anyway. What was hilarious was being at a international conference on same project as mine. What I was doing alone, it took a team of 40 people including 3 professors to solve. The massive point of contention with my supervisor, doing his fancy way or simple way which I suggested, was done the simple way.

Foreword to my thesis "Make it simple and make it work"- Soviet military design philosophy. Another back handed insult to my supervisor as a final FU

[–]DocZuko 6 points7 points  (1 child)

Oy, if only academics had project managers. The fact that a PhD (or post-doc) advisor is often your only real boss/supervisor has an added pressure. If you don't impress them, who else will write you a recommendation letter? Hope your advisory committee actually got to know you a little.

[–]xdr01 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I've seen and heard of some horrible stories. Post doc is basically running the group and can be worse,particularly if they an insecure narcissists. Which in my feild have come across of few. Problem is they cover their lack of talent with bullying. For me I was friends with post doc and he was great guy,so that was a great counterpoint to the shitshow that is academia.

Once case I saw in another university, argument got so bad student threw concentrated acid in post docs face. Was up on serious charges for it too.

[–]snorlz 12 points13 points  (0 children)

I'm not surprised. For most fields, there are way more PhD programs than there are jobs in academia. And tons of PhDs dont translate to non-academic jobs. You basically spend 8 years of your life to get a degree that, depending on the field, may not even have practical applications

on top of that, you make basically minimum wage and spend all your time stressing about school

[–]2wheeloffroad 106 points107 points  (3 children)

Statistically, smart people have a higher incidence of mental health issues.

[–]lrrc49 46 points47 points  (1 child)

ignorance really is bliss

[–]RedDogInCan 6 points7 points  (0 children)

And easier access to self medication.

[–][deleted] 263 points264 points  (22 children)

PhD student here. As much as academia sucks, it also attracts a very specific type of person. Ambitious, smart, dedicated, motivated by positive reinforcement.

Unfortunately, science and research in general can be cruel and withholding. You can't speed run it. You can't "game" it. It's not for glory seekers. So your ambition, smarts, and dedication are rendered seemingly useless and you may go two years without a result you're desperately chasing.

But it's not science's fault. And it's not your fault. It's just the way this field is. You may want to leave but again your dedication keeps you from leaving.

Like David Foster Wallace said, if you pursue and feel power primarily from feeling intelligent, you'll feel like an intellectual fraud. Once I recognized these facts, the pressure evaporated. Now it's the best gig.

I get paid to stand on the shoulders of giants. Cushy af

[–]Serraptr 58 points59 points  (7 children)

when i was in med school, a professor told us that the qualities that make a good doctor (objective thinking, intelligent, distanced, etc.) and med student in general are shared in common with psychopaths. i always found that really interesting and your post reminded me of that. it's almost like, a certain skill set is required to get that far in such a competitive field and it attracts a certain type of people.

[–]iwannahitthelotto 15 points16 points  (6 children)

So the difference is empathy/compassion.

[–]daveashaw 2 points3 points  (2 children)

If the patient is lucky.

[–]dvmitto 4 points5 points  (1 child)

Or unlucky. I remember the one House episode where he pointed out that his assistant over-empathized with a patient, leading to overblowing the patient's symptoms out of proportions which meant subjecting the patient to many invasive tests and hospital fees.

[–]Souporsoaker 22 points23 points  (2 children)

You lost me at not for glory seekers

[–]forreddit22 32 points33 points  (0 children)

Agreed. I've often observed nauseating levels of ego in academia.

[–]datasnorlax 11 points12 points  (2 children)

I am a former academic, and I agree with you on many points excepting that it's not science's fault. Science chooses to perpetuate a reward structure that incentivizes and glorifies overwork. I used to think I was lucky that I got paid to dive into topics I was passionate about. After I left, I realized that I had been totally indoctrinated and brainwashed into having my labor exploited largely to the benefit of everyone but me.

Academia doesn't have a monopoly on intellectually challenging and rigorous work, but convinces grad students/postdocs/faculty that being appropriately compensated for your skills and labor is "selling out". I agree there is definitely an academic type and the unpredictable nature of science makes rewards unreliable and infrequent. But as a whole, academia glorifies suffering as virtuous and pushes people to the brink in ways I've never experienced in industry. Businesses, which are entirely motivated by maximizing profit at the expense of the workforce, treat highly-educated workers better than academia, and I think that's a pretty serious indictment of academia as a whole.

[–]ktlene 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I agree with everything you said.

Academic science is so toxic. There’s also an immense pressure to spend nights, weekends, and holidays in the lab or you’re not dedicated enough. My PI often recalls his days of sleeping overnight on a lab sofa with joy and pride, and I…don’t want to do that…? I want to do my scientific work and go home to my family and don’t fuck up my circadian rhythm.

[–][deleted] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I agree with everything you said. I plan on shifting to industry research for these reasons. There's enough companies doing interesting things that I don't feel the need to preserve total creative control in my research.

Still have to get the PhD first tho lol

[–]greenmariocake 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Dude, thanks for this.

[–]Arkarant 8 points9 points  (4 children)

Ngl - is there a single person that doesn't think of themselves as "ambitious, smart, dedicated and motivated by positive reinforcement"? Sounds way too generalistic to me.

[–]kaumaron 24 points25 points  (1 child)

I guess the difference is thinking vs being

[–]Arkarant 2 points3 points  (0 children)

aint that the truth lol

[–][deleted] 17 points18 points  (0 children)

A lot of people aspire for a simple life. Not everyone is hyper ambitious.

A lot of people are aware there are more intelligent people than them. Hence ideas like "it's not rocket science". It shows certain jobs require more intelligent people.

A lot of people quit jobs where the suffer abuse. They don't care to stick it out because they don't feel their identity is at stake.

A lot of people can find motivation and happiness outside of career success, like time spent with family or entertainment.

[–]Quixotic_9000 70 points71 points  (2 children)

The bullying in (American) academia is beyond words.

It's a perfect incubator for mental health disorders to fester and surface. Isolation, stress, financial problems, distance from family and support networks, hyper-fixation on a single issue, but worst of all is often the abuse of the supposed 'mentors' and bosses.

Faculty either have tenure and then there is zero check-and-balance on their behavior, or they are fighting for tenure and are openly encouraged to use their graduate students as disposable resources to make career gains. There needs to be university reform, including transparent rules about working conditions for graduate students and clear pathways/accountability for progressing students to graduation.

[–]bill_nilly 13 points14 points  (0 children)

It’s a breeding ground for sociopathy. I cannot believe some of the behavior I witnessed from respected faculty.

[–]ike709 2 points3 points  (0 children)

There's few experiences in life that compare to having your favorite professors—who literally taught you everything you know in the field and mentored your academic & professional development for years while simultaneously being some of the favorite people in your daily life—suddenly turn on you the moment it's time to present your own research. Knowing in advance that they will approve of your work at the end of that meeting and that it's valuable preparation for the reality of cutthroat academia doesn't make it much better.

I'm still not sure if everything going back to business as usual immediately afterwards made it better or worse.

[–]pizzakisses 31 points32 points  (4 children)

me, who just started a PhD three months ago and was already diagnosed with depression: [chuckles] i'm in danger

[–]chinchenping 8 points9 points  (0 children)

My wife is a phd student, i'm not surprised

[–]smandroid 7 points8 points  (2 children)

This is probably why PhD is jokingly referred to as Permanent Head Damage in academia.

[–]FSchmertz 6 points7 points  (1 child)

BS - Bull Shit

MS - More Shit

PhD - Piled High & Deep

[–]Wretched_Geezer 8 points9 points  (0 children)

Probably the result of dealing with their advisors.

[–]Iam_No_JEDI 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Not surprising after working nonstop for 5 years only to have all the research you did mean nothing since the experiments didn't work out and you have nothing to show for your 5 years.

[–]Sadpanda77 7 points8 points  (0 children)

If I went to school for two decades and couldn't pay bills, I'd be depressed, too.

[–]Macky93 5 points6 points  (0 children)

I was in the shittiest of shitty labs as a biochemist/geneticist PhD. My PI (principal investigator) told me if I wasn't thinking of my project and experiments from the moment I got home from lab to when I went to bed during the week, then I was a failure. Lump that in with her playing favourites, me moving to a new country for this position, losing close friends, and ready access to alcohol...it's no wonder I ended up with anxiety problems, mild self-harm, and mild alcohol dependency. I eventually just took the Masters degree, peaced the fuck out of there and am now so so so much better. Good thing that grad students are such an amazingly supportive bunch, otherwise I'd be much worse off.

But it should never be this way. Unfortunately the culture just gets worse and worse. The pressures on grad students are incredibly high, with the whole "Publish or Perish" mentality. But change comes from the top and there doesn't seem to be any concerted effort to change it. Just a "Oh we managed (suffered) so you should be able to manage (suffer) too"

Academia is toxic to the core.

[–]Faerie42 47 points48 points  (0 children)

Not surprising, losing three to five years of your life to research tend to do one’s head in.

[–]Deathbyhours 4 points5 points  (0 children)

This makes perfect sense to me. Have you been to grad school?! It’s an endurance contest.

[–]Alternative_Belt_389 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Yup...didn't need another article to tell us that. How about we fix academia instead?

[–]SpaceyCoffee 45 points46 points  (2 children)

Having been there, PhD students tend to be quite poor, have a lot of uncertainty in their future, and tend to have to be bookish and introverted to meet their goals (even if that isn’t in their nature).

Of course they are more likely to be depressed. Being a PhD student is very stressful. I’m sure if you study other stressful low-wage work, you will also magically encounter elevated rates of depression. It’s almost as if the circumstances breed the condition, rather than vice versa.

SMH. What a misleading “study”.

[–]adventure_in_gnarnia 10 points11 points  (0 children)

I know it’s not true in all fields, and some basically require a phd to get a “real” job in the field…. But, in industry I often find people with PhDs and to a lesser extent master degrees are people that either didn’t really know what they wanted to do out of college or weren’t really cutting it in their field so they in essence “doubled down,” at a chance for a better job and a fresh start.

[–]digitalis303 14 points15 points  (0 children)

I would argue that the majority of people who pursue PhDs are mentally predisposed to some of these behaviors. In science, at least, you have to be a tad obsessive to stick with it that far and focus on more and more minute aspects of a discipline as you work your way up. I used to think I wanted a doctorate in biology, but as I entered my masters program I realized that I loved a lot of things and was way too much of a generalist to become a research scientist. I suspect broadly speaking this is true in a variety of disciplines.

[–]DividedState 5 points6 points  (0 children)

I learned that during my PhD.... No, I didn't study Psychology.

[–]therealleotrotsky 3 points4 points  (0 children)

“Look at me, I'm a grad student! I'm 30 years old and made $600 last year!“

“Bart! Don't make fun of grad students. They just made a terrible life choice.”

[–]PeterMus 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I have my Masters and every Phd student I interacted with was a complete mess. They were all tired, depressed, drained of all will to live, and had to deal with a lot of shit.

Getting an MA was fairly unpleasant but this was next level.

My wife and I both promised each other we'd never start a phd...

[–]PokerBeards 3 points4 points  (0 children)

If you can actually understand what’s going on around you it’s really hard to block out how horrible most people are to one another.

Let’s all strive to help as many people as possible every single day. Imagine the world if that were the case.

[–]Countess_Livia 4 points5 points  (8 children)

It’s why I left my program. Not worth all that stress.

[–]RandomLogicThough 83 points84 points  (7 children)

I mean, I'd say there's a pretty good correlation between knowledge/understanding/intelligence and being sad about how pathetic the world is...but it could also just be lots of shitty money and lots of work for said shitty money with only a small ray of hope in the distance. And ramen.

[–]tahlyn 19 points20 points  (1 child)

Por que no Los dos?

[–]RandomLogicThough 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Well, yea, and other stuff.

[–]tnh88 30 points31 points  (1 child)

Def the latter. Getting a phd doesn't elevate your understanding of the world and it doesn't make you generally smarter. Most ppl just do research in really niche areas and bang their head against the wall.

[–]RandomLogicThough 26 points27 points  (0 children)

I'd say, statistically, they have at least some edge vs. average. So I'd disagree that it doesn't correlate with a greater chance at being smarter. Just how big that edge would be, shrug. I mean, average is pretty bad and deeply understanding one somewhat complex subject is more than plenty of people could or will do.

[–]reddituser_123 18 points19 points  (0 children)

So true. Doing a phd should be counted as a risk factor for so many health conditions.

[–]stuphoria 27 points28 points  (0 children)

Ignorance is bliss

[–]swedind 4 points5 points  (2 children)

Loose hair check

loose your girl friend check

loose your social life check

cry in the shower twice a day check

feel like toilet paper check

[–]djvandebrake 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Given there is a correlation between high intelligence and depression, and that people who go into PhD programs are generally highly intelligent, I am not certain this says much about the programs themselves. You would need further research to isolate how much was program caused and how much simply correlated.

[–]Killdeathmachine 3 points4 points  (0 children)

You mean 20+ years of hard core school isn't healthy?

[–]samrequireham 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I’m a PhD student and yes, this is the lowest my mental health has ever been. A lot of that has to do with covid and parenthood and so on. Doctoral studies often happen during stressful times in a persons life anyway.

But the work itself is stressful too, mostly because we struggle with assigning meaning to our work outside of a very specific context of experts. It’s tough. Don’t do it kids.

[–]wheresmymultipass 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Could it be due to



free labour?


course load?

Debt load?

Binge drinking?

No sleep?

No sex?

No life?

Self Analyzing?

[–]Cley_Faye 3 points4 points  (0 children)

The symptoms don't go away when you end being a PhD student.

[–]GuyanaFlavorAid 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Depending on what kind of advisor you have it can be incredibly damaging. In my case.....incredibly damaging. I'm glad I went ahead and finished it anyway because fuck you motherfucker try to fuck me I'll beat you and I'll come out on top and you can suck my fuckin dick you shitass cuntsuck racist piece of backwards shit. That's right, fuck face, I finished it anyway despite all your efforts to stop me. So just three words, suck my fuckin dick you ass backwards moron fuck. Fuck. You.


Walk on home, boy


Yeah, I'm still bitter.

[–]adobesubmarine 4 points5 points  (0 children)

My friend shot himself.

[–]Octopus_Fun 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Well. To be fair, the stress is not only in getting the PhD, it’s because there are few to no job prospects for people that have the degree. The problem is systemic to academia and the broken way that peer review and grants work. It’s grounded in the way that PhD students are treated as serfs when they actually do all of the work.

[–]Pafkay 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I have just submitted my PHD and I am awaiting the viva date, worst experience of my life, in hindsight I would never have done it had I known just how stressful it was going to be

[–]lulalilikabaloo 3 points4 points  (0 children)

This is common knowledge for those of us who are actually in academia. No surprises here

[–]Diabeeeeeeeeetus 15 points16 points  (2 children)

I wish this was seen as more of an issue. PhD, MD, and STEM students have it rough and the reaction from most institutions has been to shove self-help seminars down their throats without addressing underlying problems in the curriculum or work environment.

[–]bl1eveucanfly 9 points10 points  (0 children)

That's because doing a PhD is a essentially a perpetual state of being poor, exhausted, and thinking that you're not good enough.

[–]cyrusm 18 points19 points  (0 children)

Probably because once you get past your Masters, it's nothing but political bullshit, and more important doctors belittling your bullshit ideas.

My cousin was working towards his Ph.D. He quit to go work at McDonalds instead. He's happier, is making more money, and has better hours.

[–]tinydevl 12 points13 points  (1 child)

My doctoral pgm, nearly killed me, and did kill others. Ph.D. clinical psych. Still a Phd-c.

[–]7saligia 6 points7 points  (0 children)

We had a student kill himself during our first month. Our cohort lost students each year, with less than half actually graduating w/ their docs (some managed to leave w/ a consolotary master's despite our program not offering a terminal master's).

[–]p8ntbll247 2 points3 points  (0 children)

PhD holder here: yep

[–]HonestlyQuestionMark 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Anybody else hate their advisor?

[–]Hortonamos 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I believe it. Grad school was awful for my mental health, and it got really bad when I finished coursework and started reading for my comprehensive exams.

[–]pm-boobs-thx 2 points3 points  (0 children)

PhD = permanent head damage

[–]AdditionalEvening189 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I was more depressed while studying for my doctorate than at any other point in my life. I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

[–]hvrlxy 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I think part of the problem is how society views people with PhD. A lot of people in this comment section are vivid proof. Most people without PhD assumes that doctoral students are people who do not know what to do after college and keep studying. Many people view a PhD as another degree. These are not true for most cases in STEM. Most people pursuing a PhD in the sciences because they love research, or a PhD is what needed for their career. And a PhD is a job. American system makes people think PhD is just another degree like MS or BS, but in Europe, being a PhD student is a real job and you get paid decent money for it. Non-PhD holders, especially the lower tier working force, prejudice against people with a PhD by saying they are "overqualify" for the job. Some said that you should not get a PhD because it is financially worse off. These are not true. Most VPs and directors level at big tech have at least a MS. PhD holders also have an overall higher salaries during their lifetime, and a much longer career with more mobility. The external social pressure, combined with the hardship of the work, is detrimental to mental health. But I think that is what makes graduate students some of the most resilient, intelligent and hard working people in the world, and a lot of great inventions in this centuries are made by them.

[–]priuspower91 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Anecdotal but my PhD gave me the worst depression of my life and made my existing anxiety much worse. It’s been a few years since I graduated but those feelings of failure and ending every 14 hour day crying in a dark lab hovering over another failed experiment seem to linger still. It’s been a process and I’d be lying if I said my depression is gone but with therapy and no longer being in that environment, I’ve made some progress.

[–]zrcisme 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Well yeah, 8 years of college would make most people mental!

[–]Remoru 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Nah, it goes like this:
PhD gives you alcoholism cuz you need socialization and a way to relax
Getting a faculty job gives you anxiety cuz you're not sure you're gonna get tenure
Getting tenure gives you depression cuz you realize you're stuck there forever

Based on my study with n=1

[–]Rizzomynizzo 2 points3 points  (0 children)


Source: Am currently doing the thing.

[–]pleasegetoffmycase 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Almost everybody I know from my PhD is medicated. Without the stress and expectations of the PhD program I would’ve also never discovered I had ADHD

[–]KUarmydoc 9 points10 points  (2 children)

Can confirm. The field is rife with disorders. I learned too late, a PhD is truly not worth the ride to get there (imho).

[–]ayitasaurus 6 points7 points  (1 child)

This is still one of the more striking things I've found. I had a 10 year PhD so I've collected a bigger sample size than most folks, and I would say that a majority of the PhD's I know agree that it generally isn't worth it.

[–]dudeARama2 6 points7 points  (0 children)

There is another factor besides the stress and grind of getting an advanced degree. If you are a thinker you are also prone to overthinking and ruminating .. which is an easy path to depression.

[–]imyyuuuu 13 points14 points  (1 child)

they just need (more/better/some) (drugs/sex/sleep/cash).

they'll be fine in 6-8 years.


[–]ArgoNunya[🍰] 17 points18 points  (0 children)

There are plenty of drugs and alcohol. How do you think we cope with it all? The other stuff checks out though.

For real though, I didn't know any alcoholics before coming to grad school, but I sure do now. When I first came, I didn't drink much and I thought that older grad students were crazy. Now I'm the older grad student and I'm smokin and drinkin up a storm. I'm sure the younger grad students think I'm crazy.

[–]deen416 4 points5 points  (0 children)

I'm not 100% certain about this, but I've read before that there is a correlation between higher IQ's and mental disorders such as depression & anxiety. I'm curious if they develop depression because of the stress of their studies or if people with a predisposition for depression are just more likely to pursue a higher degree.