June 25th, 2015
“Post-dissertation stress disorder” and “post-dissertation depression” are real things. A friend introduced those terms to me when I was trying to find an explanation for my lack of productivity after finishing my Ph.D. Turns out, I wasn't alone in experiencing a slump. As one blogger wrote of post-dissertation life: “If you are work- and project-driven, the adjustment takes time.”
People who successfully complete dissertations are a disciplined cross section of the population. We are capable of working independently, sticking to self-imposed deadlines, and focusing on the big picture. We may have thrown ourselves into the study of best writing practices, kept a strict schedule, formed writing accountability groups, and workshopped parts of our dissertation during the process. We are not people who have trouble staying on task and self-motivating.
So when the blues hit – when well-meaning refrains of “Congratulations, Doctor!” result in a cringe rather than a smile – what is going on?