Story: Great MSc Computer Science student lost interest in what he used to love

------ PAST ------

Since I was a kid, I was really passionate about the things I love. I was always ahead of my schoolmates and always prepared in advance for the material. Simply to say, I loved learning new things.

When I got into high school puberty hit me and I kind of get out of track in the first two years, but I hit hard in next two years excelling with GPA 5/5 (I was put in class of highly competitive students). Last year of high school, I did find something that gave me hard dopamine spikes, and that was programming. Just in 1 year, I earned 3rd place on State Competition and manage to get to National Olympiad. I also attended competitions of physics and mathematics. I loved the thrill of the challenge.

Took Bachelor of Computer Science, though I learned hard only the subjects that I love. I was great student (top 10 in my area) and I successfully finished it with a GPA of 4.5/5. Meanwhile, I found high interest in Artificial Intelligence and subfield of Machine Learning. I did AI courses online from Stanford, Coursera etc., since I started my bachelor studies (4 years ago) and I really liked that area. I finished my diploma thesis related to pattern recognition and my bachelors in record time.

----- RECENT ----

But after finishing bachelors everything changed. Seems like I was worn out, burned and unmotivated. I got programming job that was paid good but I hated. I completely lost my interest in programming. My driving force just dissipated in air.

Now, I got really good scholarship that got me in one of the top research universities in Europe. Still, my interests in AI dropped to 0. Seems like nothing is challenge now and I don't feel the dopamine spikes that I felt when I was discovering the field (which was novelty for me). Obviously my GPA is not good because of this (even though there are easy subjects that I've already have lot of pre-knowledge but still no motivation to learn them). I am now in my second semester of my studies. I took job as research assistant still don't feel motivated at all.


From knowing myself I would say that I only thing that makes me motivated is learning new stuff from new fields. Whenever I learn something from one field I easily get bored and switch to something new. I put my whole effort and strength to learn it (when I am motivated). I could not specialize in one thing because of this and I am angry on myself.

I never suffered from depression, I always sleep 7-8h, eat regularly, love to go to the gym, love reading books. I was taking some supplements on my own thinking that I'm suffering from depression but without any help.

Please write here your opinion and advice, I would really appreciate hearing it.

Thanks a lot in advance.

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    I started taking several medications on my own - please don't do that. it may be part of the problem, it may even contribute for it to get worst. please, please - if you think it would be good for you, seek professional help. – essay Apr 13 '15 at 13:35
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    As much as I empathize for your situation, I vote to close your question as off topic because it is impossible to answer properly. Seeking advice from consequence-free internet doctors is at least as daunting as self-prescription of neuroleptics. – Cape Code Apr 13 '15 at 13:44
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    Please note that "Here's my situation. Any comments?" is a very bad fit for Stack Exchange sites, as there is no "correct" answer to such questions: meta.academia.stackexchange.com/a/1205/10094 – xLeitix Apr 13 '15 at 14:30
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    What a person is good at and what a person enjoys doing are not the same. You sound remarkably talented at computer science, but the fact that you don't enjoy it at all indicates that it isn't what you're looking for. See a psych professional. They can help you deal with any mental issues you have, as well as work on figuring out your actual life goals in the process. Treat the problem, not the symptoms, as they say. – Compass Apr 13 '15 at 14:44
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    You build up trust with your psychiatrist over time. I don't think anyone trusts their shrink initially. Mine took about 6 months to get me over my self-imposed rut of working at a dead-end job to one I actually enjoy. – Compass Apr 13 '15 at 16:22

A senior professor I am acquainted with once uttered, "In choosing one's career, the point is not to find what you like most; the point is to find what you dislike least." I find it wise and would like to share it with you.

I would say you may first study a field you dislike least at the present stage and at the same time try to search what truly interests you.

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  • Thanks a lot for the wise comment professor. I think CS, Maths are two subjects that I dislike least. I can't think of learning law, linguistics etc. I think that I am dopamine junkie always craving for challenges. As soon as that challenge loses it's status as 'challenge' and becomes easy, I leave it for another one. What I like as well is nutrition and I am living pretty healthy lifestyle. I also love to help people by being humanitarian. Hopefully, I will find my way out. Thanks a lot again! – reborn9 Apr 13 '15 at 16:07
  • No problem! Wish you all the best. (Why to climb mountain Everest? Because it is there!) – Megadeth Apr 13 '15 at 23:33

How about taking a break. Say a 6-months to one year of break if you can afford. Spend time to introspect and do other, pressure free activities. In time when your mind comes to a resting state, you may realize what area really interests you. Sometimes it is hard to get a right perspective over things when we are part of it. It helps zooming out and take a broader look at options with a calm and objective mind.

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    Thanks for the comment. Yes, I would love to have a break. I feel like I pressed the gas pedal to the maximum (so to say) in the last 5 years of my life (studying at least 5-6h per day on average, sometimes even 10h per day). Also what happens to me now is that I got addicted to studying. If I don't study everyday I felt like I did not do anything productive and 'lost' my day so to say. I started to value time in that way and could not stop the vicious cycle. – reborn9 Apr 13 '15 at 16:14

Except for the most severe cases, you can function fine and be depressed. I have no idea if you are, but seeing a doctor to talk about this can't hurt, and I recommend you do.

That said, consider looking into a structured work environment that consists mainly of executing well projects given to you. What you experience isn't all that uncommon, and can be due to varying factors, such as coming to terms with no longer being as exceptional as you feel you were, operating better in highly structured environments, missing the feedback you got earlier in life, or even going through a belated emotional puberty. The general feeling you express strikes a chord with me, but I'm puzzled by your not enjoying your current studies.

Fields like consulting might fit someone like you better, because of a mix of interesting problems you are expected to solve, while receiving feedback from both clients and team managers; working solitarily on a small part of code of a much larger program might not. You also need to acquaint yourself (in consulting) regularly with new problems.

Consulting is very specific, and a bit hard to get into, but consider doing some research on fields with a somewhat similar profile...all with the caveat that I agree with the comments pointing out that your malaise can't be properly diagnosed or solved by a bunch of people on the internet. Try to open up to those around you - friends and family - to be able to discuss this longer and better.

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    Thanks a lot for the advice. I talked to my family about this yesterday and we both agreed that my expectations from the university very really high but not all researchers are good professors, so I think that is one of the problems. The second problem is, not having closer relationship with any of the professors (I am a type of person that needs support and motivation from professors). The third one is, that I already have learned a lot of the stuff that is taught here. I feel much better today and much more motivated to continue my job and my studies after realizing all of these problems. – reborn9 Apr 14 '15 at 12:27

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