42% of PhD students might be at risk of developing a psychiatric disorder › COT

42% of PhD students might be at risk of developing a psychiatric disorder

42% of PhD students might be at risk of developing a psychiatric disorder

42% of PhD students might be at risk of developing a psychiatric disorder

At the beginning...

You open your eyes when your alarm rings, take a shower, eat your breakfast and go to your office at the university. While starting up your computer, you talk with some colleagues, maybe grab a coffee and check your agenda: the day has two meetings, some time to read and write, and you need to finish a certain part of your first paper to send to your supervisors. You feel some pressure, but you start the day and at the end of the day, you write down what you will do tomorrow and leave the office to go to your sports club and have dinner with a friend afterwards. This was maybe an average day in the first year of your PhD or how you’d like it to be. However, you may experience a different day now. 

Keep your light on

We hope that you’re still reading this blog and haven’t continued working due to feelings of stress and time pressure, as the good news is that you can learn more about the symptoms and how to prevent or tackle them at this year’s PhDday! Our motto is “Keep Your Light On”, and it’s an invitation to stay motivated and engaged in our PhDs and life.



Waking up before your alarm, or far passed it, feeling stressed, skipping breakfast, rushing to the university as fast as you can. You have too many things to finish in one day, do not have much time to talk or have lunch with colleagues, and feel constant pressure and stress. At the end of the day you skip your sports, maybe buy some ready-meal on your way home, where you continue working while eating. You cannot sleep at night and the next day the same riddle starts all over again. Sounds familiar? Does it apply to you or someone around you? We hope not, but recent results from a survey among PhD students at Dutch universities showed that, according to the definition, 42% might be “at risk of developing a psychiatric disorder”.


So, what’s going on? There might be a combination of external and internal factors that contribute to feelings of burn-out; external factors refer to pressure from society, competition among young adults in comparing each other’s lives on social media, and, as a consequence of much social media use, lower levels of concentration and focus on one specific task. More specifically for PhDs, there might also be comparison in output, for instance the number of papers, presentations at conferences, and publications in high impact journals, complemented by perceived pressure from supervisors. The fact that there are more PhDs than positions at the next levels of post-doc and assistant-professor might also add to the perceived pressure by those who pursue a career in academia.


High goals

There are also internal, or personal factors, that contribute to the chance of having burn-out and explaining the high prevalence among PhDs: Most of us are probably hard-working, want to become better every time we write or produce something, set high goals for ourselves and are perfectionists in our work. Most of the time, these are very useful characteristics to have, but at some point they might start to work against you. Being unable to let it go, never being happy or satisfied at the end of the day with what you’ve done, work that is never really finished and always possible to improve. Those elements of our job can trigger the feeling of being not good enough, decreasing our self-efficacy and confidence and increasing the perceived work pressure and stress levels on a daily basis.


The program offers a wide variety of inspiring talks and workshops to learn about how to manage your job as a PhD student in a successful way as well as some starting points on dealing better with the workload and stress feelings. What to think of a workshop on finding your inner intuition and creativity? Learning to cope with failure, or participating in a mindfulness or laughing workshop? These and many more workshops are complemented by keynotes by Heleen de Coninck and Ad Vingerhoets, and an interesting panel discussion. Have a break with some delicious lunch and dinner, and meet with a variety of organizations and people to broaden your network and learn about job opportunities. After the day program, we offer a stimulating and varied cultural program during our evening festival.

PhD Day 2019

Are you excited yet?! Learn how to save time, stave off headaches and a potential burnout and get inspired along the way, and buy your ticket here for PhD Day 2019! We are very much looking forward to seeing you in Groningen at the Oosterpoort on September 20th!

The PhD day Organizing Team

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PhD Day 2019