Let's see, just in this week alone I got the news that I have failed four of my midterms (out of five courses in total, the last course doesn't have a midterm), achieving around 40% in each, quite consistent effort across the board. By the way I have around a 3.8 GPA over 4 years of engineering school and I received a letter from the faculty telling me to pull my grade up or consult mental health professional.

I think all this is happening I am in the final stage of wrapping up a year long project that has truly went awry. Two of the members contributed nothing and did not even participate in completing the final system. So I was there to build the entire system myself. This was easy until it was time to deliver our final report. Guess who wrote the 80 pg long final report.

During all this I had one huge McDonald per day at around 1:00 AM, drank a dozen of energy drinks which I know cannot be too good for me. Missed nearly every single lecture. Wrote a 1000 word email to my supervisor detailing how much I suffered through this project and later wrote a 20 word email apologizing for the rambling. Fell sleep in the middle of a lab exercise (thankfully I am able to make up for the lab tomorrow morning). Also rejected from two schools, not my dream school, but hurt nonetheless.

This is the part when I think I would be finally schizophrenic. Like John Nash or that girl in Proof, I go full blown insane. Wear a clown hat on my way to school while swearing at bus drivers, sitting in the middle of a floor in a 7-eleven crying or writing indecipherable symbols on the blackboard. I am not dealing with this stress at all. I have not talked to my professors about the midterms, no plans to make up anything. I have not bothered to pick up the midterms either to check what is wrong.

Surprisingly, none of this has happened. I wonder if I am in a phase that is beyond five stages of grief, or if I have truly given up in my subconscious. Has anyone experienced something similar? Like a setback that is so big that you would think you would run into emotional troubles but nothing wind up happening. At what stage in academia would one most likely to suffer from a break down of some sort?

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    Your final paragraph starts with none of this has happened. Could you clarify where the true events start and the hypothetical ones start? We all have setbacks, some can be overcome, and some people leave academia. It may be difficult to answer your question.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 20:16
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    A tangent: it is definitely (and sadly) true that many smart, hardworking, motivated people like yourself suffer from extreme stress or worse at various points in their education; however, I would caution against thinking that there is a "usual time" for this to happen. It's a short hop-skip-and-jump to the assumption that, if you're not experiencing stress at such a time, you're not working hard enough (if that seems silly, see academia.stackexchange.com/questions/38309), or conversely that if you are stressed at other times, you're just not good enough. Bad times happen. Commented May 23, 2015 at 20:30

2 Answers 2


You have given more than enough evidence to show that you need to seek professional help and/or counseling. The impulse of telling people that you're in trouble is a good one. Posting anonymously on a site for academic advice is not the way to go: because you clearly need help by those with professional counseling training and very few academics have such training, most people on this site will (and should) decline to give you specific advice. Please seek help in real life. You can begin with student counseling services at your university. If you don't know where to go, google "student counseling [your university]".

Note: I am leaving this as an answer rather than a comment because I feel strongly that this is "the real answer" for the OP. The manner in which probability of mental breakdown varies with the stage of one's academic career is not relevant to the OP. Mental breakdown can happen at all stages of an academic (and nonacademic) career, and rather than looking at age or seniority statistically one should look behaviorally, cognitively and emotionally on a case-by-case basis.


You should not have really taken up the entire work upon yourself!!!

The moment you knew that your contributors were't listening to you and you would have to do the entire work, you should have reported to your professor or lecturer in charge. While you strive day and night with just a burger for a day, your contributors keenly listen to lectures and get ahead of you. My advice to you would be

1)Talk directly to your lecturer/professor about this situation (face-to face) and seek their help.

2)There is a second chance for everything! Try to focus on your lab exercises and courses well and level up your grades!

3) Most importantly, Please eat well and sleep well. Only if you are healthy, you'd be able to catch up.

4)Sometimes, it's better if you share your troubles with someone. You can talk about it with your friends and even your family members. It relieves your stress. (It works for me, I can really relate to your situation-You know, I took step 1) below the moment I had a situation like yours)

5) Stop worrying. Everything has already happened and you can't do anything about it. Take a step forward and think about "What you can do NOW to resolve all these problems!"


1) Never have people as contributors who contribute nothing. The moment you get to foresee that you'd have to end up doing everything, take a bold decision to do your project alone. (You are the only contributor for your project so it doesn't matter if you do your project alone-and why let people take credit for your work?)

2)Keep in touch with your project guide/professor constantly and let them know the project progress-how much each contributor has contributed)

3) Please take care of your health (Eat well and don't be demotivated, no matter what happens. This too shall pass)

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