Dissertation Depression: 5 Pitfalls

As I sit down to write about this journey, photos of Robin Williams are all over my news feed.  I am curious about depression and how this hits people in the dissertation phase of life.  A search for “dissertation depression” revealed quickly that too many people are feeling despair.  There is even a Facebook page by this name.


Here is a summary of what I found on how people respond to the dissertation process sometimes – totally normal people!  Depression is real and so are habits that lead to feeling like depression.  Of course, it can be hard to discern sometimes what level of misery is appropriate for those of us writing the dissertation, but some recurring themes that came across definitely struck a chord with me.


Feeling Stuck:  It is easy to feel stuck and have a hard time pinpointing what the problem is that can be solved to move forward. Just determining one or more challenges and how to over come them in a reasonable manner is overwhelming and can lead to the next depressing dissertation reaction.


Avoidance:  The task is too big, and people feel guilt, anger, or shame for not working.  The longer it goes on (the avoidance), the worse the feeling.


Circumstantial Anger:  Obstacles that hold you back that are within your control, not within your control, within your school, or outside of your school can greatly impact the goal-oriented person who is pursuing a doctoral degree.


Existential Crises:  Fear of failure, fear of success, and completion anxiety all apply to the dissertation process for many people.  The Internet is filled with stories of people who don’t have the dream job after finishing, kind of that Emerson journey/destination theme, but the opposite.


Mental Fatigue:  People feel physically tired after researching and writing.  It seems to be a better gig than working in the coal mines, and this case can certainly be made.  In fact, however, the brain boot camp of the dissertation causes mental fatigue that results in levels of high stress and emotion.

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