I am facing maybe imposter syndrome that kills me everyday which leads to an intermittent sleep and a chronic headache. Unfortunately, the country I am in right now there is non-Anglophone speaking psychoanalysts, the university as well doesn't give any kind of support: there was a senior student suffering from chronic depression and didn't get the help and considering relocating. I seriously feel a constant headache and thoughts I don't deserve any thing, even I feel so stupid in programming although some people tell me you are working on a new topic. I don't know how to heal myself on my own. Hope to hear what I can do to overcome the imposter syndrome.

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    You may need an advice of a health professional, not an average academic. Nov 27, 2018 at 11:57
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    First of all, you must understand what exactly is impostor syndrome. As you know, I've followed several of your posts here, and thus I find it unlikely to be the source (e.g. were you given a prestigious position among highly-gifted peers in a competitive environment?). In my overall impression, you hold high expectations of yourself impressing others, and you're having problems keeping emotions at bay. My advice is that you cool it down, get into a hobby and sports, and consider seeking professional advice.
    – Scientist
    Nov 27, 2018 at 12:12
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    @Monika I don't know exactly where you are. But, I do know that most psychoanalyst in my location (Taiwan) do speak English because they were trained in English textbooks and papers. They may not speak perfect English (in my location, again), but I had witnessed an American woman talking to a medical doctor without much trouble. Did you ever try to find an expert in your area?
    – Nobody
    Nov 27, 2018 at 13:17
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    Also, in my location, there are clinics providing medical service to the English speaking people. You may want to talk to your school to find the information you'll need. Otherwise, what if you have a medical issue, how do you handle it? Yes, I am talking about medical service, the psychiatrist is similar issue.
    – Nobody
    Nov 27, 2018 at 13:23
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    OK: this sounds more like an emergency. This is a forum of technical discussion involving mostly anonymous academics. We can only provide general advice. I recommend you take immediate action. (i) Find the local expat community and ask for contacts. I am sure you'll find great help. (ii) Seek professional help online -- you can find specialized psychological support via chat. Some academic coach online can provide you with professionals for support.
    – Scientist
    Nov 27, 2018 at 14:10

2 Answers 2


There is only so much you can do without professional help, and like everybody here I strongly encourage you to seek some. Yet there are a few simple things you can try by yourself.

The first step is always awareness, and it's good that you understand the cause of your trouble already. This means that you know that your negative thoughts about your level/performance are not rational, so whenever you notice such thoughts try to counter them objectively (for instance by asking somebody else's opinion). Your analytical mind is playing tricks on you, so let's feed it with some more objective arguments to counter its flawed logic:

  • The Imposter Syndrom is a well known problem in academia and among PhD students especially. You're not the first one and you won't be the last one. If most PhD students feel (to some extent) like imposters, this contradicts the definition of imposter; as a consequence you are not an imposter. What this means practically is that it's important not to feel isolated: try to share your thoughts with fellow students, you will feel more confident knowing that you are not alone in this.
  • You are not guilty and you don't have to hide your supposed weaknesses. Trust the system: you had good grades, your institution and supervisor allowed you to do a PhD, so they think that you have the skills to succeed. They usually select PhD students who succeed eventually, so there's no reason to think that they are wrong in your case.
  • Even if they were wrong, it wouldn't be your fault. You are only asked to do your best, not to be perfect. "Doing your best" means doing what you can as a human being taking the context into account, and while above all preserving your health and sanity. Try to remember this every time you feel guilty: in research it's completely ok not to know everything and not to be sure. Facing a choice, don't look for the perfect answer but for your answer, no matter how imperfect it is. Then work on it as long a necessary, try to be persistent. More often than not that's how interesting things are found.

Even with proper psychological treatment at your university, imposter syndrome (IS) is tough to deal with. I agree with @erwan: recognizing you experience IS is the first step.

I suffer from IS, and can only make recommendations based on my experience and what has worked for myself and those close to me. I highly recommend joining or fostering a community of those who experience IS (this can be online or in person, and can comprise students, faculty and staff!). Organizing groups to talk about IS, or even chatting with a fellow grad student over coffee about IS will likely yield revelations. There are probably some students in your department, or lab, who think that you really have your shit together, when you think you don't!

If you're on Twitter, I have found it a great place for IS. Following people (post docs and faculty) who publicly post about how they are handling their IS (and mental health issues) has been great for me--when I see someone who I consider successful posting about how they don't feel they are good enough for X, or how they don't think they can complete Y makes me think, 'if they are suffering from IS then surely I can excuse myself!'.

Is there a cure for IS--imo, no. What would you have to do, or what goal would you have to achieve to consider yourself successful? Is this an attainable goal (by yourself or others)? When you think about a peer or mentor who you consider successful, how do you measure that and why do you use those measures? Is it fair to compare yourself to others?


  1. Join or create a local community to discuss issues with IS in academia (this group could meet regularly, or not!).
  2. Remember that you're not alone in dealing with IS -- follow people who talk publicly about IS/issues in academia on social media.
  3. Don't define yourself by only your academic achievements--you're more than that.
  4. IS doesn't have a cure, rather, you'll have to employ coping mechanisms to ameliorate or prevent the symptoms.
  5. Find a way to measure and celebrate your successes.

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