What is Post-Phd depression?


Author bio

Page last updated: 28/10/2022

What is Post-Phd depression?

This article will discuss what Post-Phd depression is, how it can impact a person, and what are signs you might be going through it. Aside from that, the article will also explain what ways you can cope with Post-Phd depression.

What is Post-Phd depression?

Post-PhD depression is a condition that students can feel once they have finished their Ph.D. It can lead them to feel sad, anxious, and like they lost their purpose.

Going through a Ph.D. program is not a simple thing. The research and all the studying you need to do in that period is a full-time job with a lot of extra hours.

The whole process comes with many thoughts and feelings. As you go through your Ph.D. you may experience a huge amount of stress, excitement, frustration, a sense of failure, loneliness, and feeling worthless. 

And going through that causes one to feel that when the Ph.D. is over, they will be swept away with a huge sense of relief and life will be all flowers and rainbows.

But that is not necessarily true. As you finish your Ph.D., another phase of your life will start. And you need to handle what is ahead. This new chapter may be filled with the unknown and can lead you to intense anxiety. Let’s discuss what can cause Post-Phd depression.

What can cause Post-Phd depression?

As you finish your Ph.D., you may be faced with some serious questions that will force you to take a long hard look at yourself. Let’s discuss what those matters are.

Your identity 

For 3 or 4 years, your life has been solely focused on developing this work. You may have prioritized it over spending time with your family, you may have lost birthday parties, and many holidays with them and your friends.

It is safe to say that your Ph.D. may have become a huge part of who you were in that period. And now you may be questioning yourself who you are without it. And this is a valid and important question to ask yourself. It is only by doing so that you will be able to identify what is important for you right now.

And this is not a question that will be answered from one moment to the next, and this can lead to huge anxiety. But opening yourself to identify your wishes, desires, and what you still want to accomplish in life is extremely important. 

Keeping those questions in mind will allow you to open yourself up to experience new things, and discover where your interest lies from now on. Through that, you may get a sense of who you are.

What is Post-Phd depression?

What should you do next 

Along with understanding your identity once you finish your Phd, you may also be extremely nervous about what to do next. The research you made may be extremely relevant at the moment, but you might fear it will become outdated soon, and how can you keep developing it once you are done.

Aside from that, you may need to discover how that Ph.D. diploma can benefit you in getting a job position. You may need to discover where you can fit in companies, and how to put all the knowledge you develop in your research into your work.

This moment is when the imposter syndrome can kick in, and you might feel like you are not fit for anything anymore. Try to breathe, and keep in mind that you should be open to experimenting at this moment. Try to be open to possibilities that will come, and see how you feel about them.

What to do with your free time

Another matter that can cause you to experience Post-Phd depression is what to do with your free time. So much of it was taken by your Ph.D., that it can lead you to feel empty and without a purpose right now. 

Try to take this time to allow yourself to experience new things. Or you might benefit from having a routine to keep yourself sharp as you figure out what way to go. Let’s discuss some ways you can cope with Post-Phd depression.

How can I cope with Post-Phd depression? 

If you are feeling empty, sad, and without purpose since your Ph.D. has ended. But the first thing to keep in mind is that what you are feeling is completely normal. Most of your peers may feel the same when they end their Ph.D. as well.

Sharing with them, and hearing from their experiences will give you people to relate to. Not only that, those might be people that can empathize with what you are going through.

Along with that, aside from thinking of all that has been, it may be important to look with positive eyes at what lies ahead. Try to keep a curious eye on things to open yourself up to what is coming ahead. And not only on what is ahead, but you may also want to focus on the things that were left behind during your Ph.D.

You may want to spend more time with your friends and family, and look at things you can do besides academia. It is all about balance at this moment. So not only give in to indulgences you may have neglected over the past years but also spend time thinking about what you want for your future.

And even though you may not feel highly motivated about it now, it is important to try and publish your Ph.D. findings as soon as you can. Those will allow you to show your work to the world and collect the benefits of it.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): What is Post-Phd depression? 

How can I handle the stress of being a Ph.D. student? 

Being a Ph.D. student can be extremely stressful. To deal with it, the first thing you should do is accept those feelings. Understand that this is a part of the life of pretty much everyone going through it. Ph.D. may cause you to isolate yourself, and make you feel overwhelmed.

So to handle that, it might be important that you find strategies such as meditation, and mindfulness. This will help you center yourself when the stress of it all kicks in. Through those, you will be able to focus more on yourself, and what’s around, you than on that never-ending spiral of anxiety.

Looking for balance in your work and personal life is also important. You may want to devote all of your energy to what you have been researching, but keep in mind that taking some time off can have a huge impact on how productive you are. If you take some time to do other things, you will return to work more energized and motivated.

Try to keep in mind what your goals are. You should be in a Ph.D. because you want to, not just to get credentials. Even though the Ph.D. will have its hard times, if it still makes sense to you, it will be easier to pursue it. And finally, if you feel it is important to talk to someone, you may want to find campus support. 

What gets better in my life after the Ph.D.? 

There is a lot that changes after you finish your Ph.D., and not all of it is bad. You may feel like you are losing your identity, but you are also gaining some things. When you finish your Ph.D. you may have better control of your own time. You will understand what your priorities are, and discover what is urgent and what is not.

After your Ph.D. you also have more control over your life’s direction. It won’t be all connected to the research. You can decide what you want to do next and can see what other colleagues before you have done to take it as an example of your possibilities. 

You will be able to manage yourself and your relationships. You will be able to discover what places you want to be, what are people you want to talk to, and how all of those connections can get you where you want to be in life.

Is doing a Ph.D. lonely? 

Yes, doing a Ph.D. can be extremely lonely. You spend so much time focused on your research, and so much of your energy goes to that, that it can feel like there is nothing left to give others. You may be isolated from your family. Miss birthdays and even holidays. 

All of your focus goes to the research you are in. And even though Ph.D. does take a lot of time and effort, it is important to find some balance. Taking some time for yourself and your relationships, and even being in touch with your peers from your Ph.D. program can help.

How can I prevent Ph.D. burnout? 

Although it shouldn’t be, it is quite common for Ph.D. students to develop burnout. This can happen due to the excessive workload, the long hours, and the lack of activities that can relax them. But there are some things you can do just as you start your program, that can help.

The first thing is to create a habit to take breaks for yourself. Try to set some time apart to do something else, preferably something that you like. This will help you not only prevent burnout but improve your motivation and productivity.

Have people you love close by, and even a therapist may be helpful. You shouldn’t look for one just as you feel drained. If you have noticed that a Ph.D. will be something that will demand a lot of you, look for professional help right away. It will prevent things from getting worse.

And in the same way, you should look out for your mental health, and care for your body. Eat healthy, exercise, and sleep well. All of that will help you feel better at work. Another thing that can help is setting your boundaries. 

Set the times you will focus on studying and avoid distraction. Turn your phone off if it is needed. You can also look for meditation as a way to center yourself when going gets tough.

What is a thesis defense?

The thesis defense is the moment the student will present their research findings to professors and their advisors. They will be questioned about all of it, and be evaluated on how the research went. If the professors think the student did a good job, they will be given a Ph.D. diploma.


This article showed what Post-Phd depression is, what may cause it, and what are the signs you are going through it. Aside from that, the article explained what may be behind your Post-Phd depression, and ways you can cope with it.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.