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How to Deal with the Emotional Rollercoaster of Doing a PhD

June 20, 2022

6 min read

Author : United We Care
How to Deal with the Emotional Rollercoaster of Doing a PhD


A doctor of philosophy (PhD) is the highest academic qualification that a person can achieve. It is a doctoral research degree where a student has to submit a thesis after working for three to four years. Because studying for a PhD involves a lot of research and hard work, the students go through emotional turmoil. A PhD student aims to contribute to knowledge and education earnestly.

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What is a PhD?

Students who complete a PhD degree become qualified to teach their subject at the university level. They also become eligible to work as specialised authorities in their chosen field. The length of a PhD degree is three to four years if studied full-timely. It can even take five to six years if studied part-time.

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What are the stages of a PhD

A PhD degree has the following steps:

  1. Firstly, the student has to carry out a survey or review on the present scholarship of the chosen subject.
  2. They have to perform the research work and collect all the results from the research.
  3. The student then has to write a thesis based on all the research work collected and submit it.
  4. Finally, the student must appear for a viva voce exam to defend their thesis work. 

Why is PhD painful?

Completing a PhD course is mentally and physically very daunting. The students face many challenges, especially during the first three years. Challenges that make PhD difficult are as follows:

  1. Isolation is a common problem with PhD students because they primarily work alone. Their social life becomes more restricted. However, friends who work in offices have a far more social life.
  2. Completing a PhD course can be stressful with the deadlines, pending project work and personal investments. As completion of PhD is not teamwork, the pressure falls on the student alone. Mental stress and disorder are prevalent in PhD students.
  3. PhD can become complicated when the supervisor or mentor is not motivating or cooperative.
  4. Arranging funds can also be challenging for a PhD student. Insecure funding could lead to stress so that students can commit suicide.

Dealing with mental stress while doing a PhD

Completing a PhD course can be stressful, but the stress should not affect students’ mental health. The students should have the courage to understand that failing is not the world’s end. The PhD students can apply the following tips to overcome mental stress:

  1. Before starting their PhD degree, the students should choose the right funding source. Moreover, they should focus more on enriching the content of their research.
  2. The key to completing the degree with the least stress is time management. Students should not overwork themselves. They should not set unrealistic goals that they cannot complete at the end of the day.
  3. The student should maintain a healthy relationship and communicate with their supervisor or mentor. They should place their concerns before the supervisor in a respectful manner.
  4. The students should write down their thesis with a fresh mind. They should not concentrate on editing while writing and proofreading the entire article.

suicide rate among PhD students rising

Why is The suicide rate among PhD students rising?

PhD students are the future of innovation and education. Recently it has been seen that their future is at risk. The rate of mental disorders and suicides is gradually increasing among PhD students. The suicide rate among PhD students is rising.
Why students suicide is a crucial question. 

  1. The instances of suicide are so high because PhD students are suffering from depression and mental stress. 
  2. The problems might be with the present system of the PhD programme. 
  3. The students are constantly under pressure to overwork. 
  4. Many students even think that they are not suffering from anxiety or imposter syndrome while doing a PhD; they are not working hard. 
  5. This mindset among the students needs to change. Another factor increasing the number of suicides is fewer vacancies in postdoctoral positions.

How to overcome the suicide rate of PhD students

  1. The students and their well-wishers should understand that it is not the world’s end if they fail. It is painful to fail, especially for PhD students who sacrifice to get their thesis ready. When students fail in a PhD, it lowers their confidence because They always aced their studies. To grieve upon failure is alright, but students should try doing it healthily.
  2. The students need to realise failing in PhD does not mean a finished career. They can later learn that the failure was their ticket to a more promising career. 
  3. They should not develop an aggressive approach toward their PhD course after failing. 
  4. PhD students can constantly shift to some other doctoral program. They should realise that life is more important than any degree.


The emotional health of PhD students should be a serious matter of concern. Young students cannot just give up their lives because they cannot successfully obtain a degree. The students should be taught not to lose their motivation. Instead, they should see the big picture instead of passing and failing. The students can always take a small break when they feel overstressed. They should not let frustration get in the way of their success. One might fail repeatedly, but one should seek inspiration to continue and move on.
The mentor or supervisor should play a positive role in the student’s life. Instead of creating pressure, they should help the students cope with PhD stress. No degree or course is more significant than mental health or life. Keeping a positive approach toward life should be the ultimate goal.

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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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