I am a fourth year PhD student in CS department. After experiencing a series of events that transpired, my mental health diminished significantly. I've lost motivation and interest in my work.

Here's the story. After my first year, the faculty member I worked with was found to be committing fraud, and no longer served at the university. He and me had a relatively good relationship. I learnt the event on the local news. No one in the department spoke to me on what to do.

I was confused, and I did not know what to do at the time. I thought the best choice was just to continue looking for advisors. I knew what I topic wanted to do, and I had worked out some results by myself. I asked a faculty member who's most related to the topic, but could not receive any useful advice. Several month later, I found the result I obtained was already found several years ago, by people in a research community outside CS. (The topic I worked on is arguably interdisciplinary. ) I feel the faculty I've been talking to wasn't of much help, as he wasn't even able to point me in the right direction. Perhaps the topic I've worked on does not belong in their specialty.

At this point, my mental health already began to deteriorate, but I tried to keep my faith in research and academia. I also tried branching out and try different topics that might align better with the faculties. Since I had no advisor, I had to learn everything about the basics of research by myself. I also worked on several topics by myself, and uploaded some single authors papers of my work to arXiv. I was happy that my work received some citations.

I branched out and looked into some new research topics, continued looking for advisors, and connected with a faculty member. Several months later, a former student of his reported on social media that the faculty was involved in academic misconduct cases. I was shocked when I learnt this. I am now 2.5 years into my program. My mental health is beginning to deteriorate even quicker.

After 1 more year of struggling, I've just begun my fourth year. I now have an advisor and he seems to have a good personality. I've accepted the fact that I cannot do what I'm truly passionate about at this university, and I've convinced (or at least trying to convince) myself that research isn't about what particular topic I'm working on, but rather it's just a training process where one learns new stuff. My advisor has some topics that he would like me to work on. I wouldn't say I'm passionate about them, but as I've said, I think I'm beyond a point where I have the freedom / privilege to work on whatever I want.

However, my mental state has been in bad shape for a long time and has not begun to recover. I talked to counseling center at my university, but didn't found it to be of much help. Now, I find it extremely hard trusting other people, and I find it extremely hard establishing trusting relationships with faculty members. I have had a bit of phobia of talking to people ever since the faculty I worked with in my first year was found of fraud, and the phobia has gotten worse as time progressed and all these other events transpired. I've gotten to a point where checking messages / emails can be an extremely painful experience: my heart races and breathing becomes heavy, something close to a panic attack. Sometimes I would even be afraid of checking messages from friends and family. In terms of research and work, I find it extremely hard to concentrate and hard to produce results.

I could use some help getting out of this situation. Should I quit my PhD and consider graduating with a Masters degree? Should I continue pursuing research? Is there something wrong with my thinking and should I change my state of mind? Any advice appreciated.

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    If it's worth anything, it looks to me as if you've played your cards pretty well, so you have that to be proud of. The thing to do now is to take @Buffy's advice below. Sep 30, 2021 at 15:21
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    And it might be helpful to know you're not alone. Anxiety, depression, etc., are pretty common issues, and I'd imagine more so in intellectually-based careers. You've been through a fight. Get some rest, recover with the help of someone in your corner. Sep 30, 2021 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


The most important thing, right now, is to talk to a mental health professional. Many universities will provide help for this. At one place I know of, professors in the psychology department are skilled at it also.

Note that what has been done to you isn't your fault. I wonder a bit about the general competence of your faculty, actually. If you aren't in a place that puts a time limit on your degree then get your mental health fixed and then continue, even if it is at a different university. Or, at least, wait until you are able to make more rational decisions before you make any life-affecting ones.

The best, and only valid, advice will come from a professional with whom you can explore your state of mind and the reasons for it.

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