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The Psychological Effects Of Academic Hazing On Scholars

Updated: Dec 6, 2021

Though the title of this article may sound slightly depressing, we hope to shed some light on what it is like to become a scholar. There are many ups and downs in the process of being a scholar. You have your own favorite instructors, lectures, topics, etc., but at times you have to deal with things such as academic hazing, that leave you feeling helpless and demoralized.

From an academic perspective, it can be difficult not only to handle the coursework itself but also to compete with everyone else and stand out among them. The feeling of being left out, sometimes in the midst of a group, creates psychological stress on students. In addition to that, if you have an unsupportive supervisor and environment, every step of your Ph.D. may feel like hazing.

Why Does Getting a Ph.D. Feels Like Hazing?

A Ph.D. is an arduous feat, but it can also be psychologically damaging. Many students face pressure to succeed, or even failure at the hands of their advisors. It's easy for Ph.D. students to feel like they're alone in these feelings, and that they aren't allowed to speak out about them.

Let’s discuss some common psychological effects of academic hazing on scholars and how to overcome them.

1. Constant Anxiety and Distress

When writing a Ph.D. thesis, you are under constant pressure from committee members who will look at your work before you get through with final edits. As a result, it can be quite easy to over-think and overanalyze every last detail.

According to a study, Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students[1], 50 percent of students going to school for their Ph.D. experience psychological distress.

To combat this issue, we recommend taking a step back from your work often so that you have a fresh outlook on what needs to be improved and how. Deep relaxation techniques, and counseling although can be quite expensive will help mitigate stress, anxiety, and depression so that you can focus and have clarity of mind when writing.

2. Humiliation

A Ph.D. is a challenge in itself, but add a bad supervisor to the mix, and things can get pretty tough. The issue of humiliation by your Ph.D. supervisors is a growing concern among university students and academic staff.

As the economy becomes more demanding, the competition for jobs increases, even when it comes to getting into doctoral programs. The competition also occurs when professors choose students to work with them on their research. Therefore, if you don’t get along well with your supervisor, you will find yourself in an unpleasant situation in which you are unable to finish your Ph.D., resulting from academic hazing.

3. Depression and Sleep Deprivation

Four-seven percent of academic doctoral candidates enrolled in a doctoral program experience psychological distress, such as anxiety, unhappiness in daily activities, stress, loss of sleep, and depression. The psychological effects are triggered by:

  • Constant pressures from family and friends on when a candidate will graduate.

  • Intense competition with other candidates.

  • Meeting expectations of committee members' revisions and evaluations.

  • Ambiguous feedback on the dissertation revision from committee members.

  • Large workload, which may interfere with family and social requests by eliminating a work-life balance.

  • The need/desire to achieve perfection.

  • Exhaustion of student financial aid to pay for program costs and avoid paying out of pocket.

  • Increasing student loan debt.

  • The need/desire to achieve perfection

With the unpredictability of research during your Ph.D. and a number of late nights, it’s not uncommon to go through periods where you feel like everything is going well. Your research is progressing, you have great ideas for future papers — but then there are other times when writing a dissertation can feel like a thankless and endless quest.

There will be long periods of time when you feel like nothing is going well, and this can take its toll on your mental health. Long hours, lack of sleep, isolation from family and friends makes you feel like you're being hazed academically, which can all contribute to depression.

Data from a report[2] Graduate Student Happiness & Well-Being Report by the Graduate Assembly at the University of California, Berkeley, reported that of all the Ph.D. candidates on the school’s campus, 47 percent were considered depressed.

One of the most important things that you can do is surround yourself with positive people. This includes friends, family, co-workers, and even professors. Sometimes, even though you know you need help, you don’t know how to ask for it. If this describes you, Scholars Professional Editing Group LLC has developed a 1-on-1 coaching and mentorship program that includes not only dissertation writing support BUT mindset sessions that reverse the psychological effects of the doctoral process and helps you to have clarity, deep relaxation, and focus so that you can clearly write your dissertation without the subconscious blocks.

4. Isolation

If you’ve been in a Ph.D. program for a while, you’ve probably heard people say that the first few years are the hardest. This is true, but it’s not just because of the research and writing that make up most of a Ph.D. student’s time. It’s also because, at this point in their lives, they have no real connections with other people.

In fact, many students become so isolated from others during the first few years of their Ph.D. programs because of the academic hazing during a Ph.D. that they begin to feel depressed. This can be debilitating and prevent them from focusing on their studies.

The best thing to do about it is to join an active community of people who are also working on PhDs. You can find them by googling “PhD Chat groups” or “PhD Facebook Groups”. If there isn’t one in your city, you can try reaching out to your local university department and see if they can help you connect with others.


The psychological effects of academic hazing rarely get discussed in scholarly circles, yet are a very real part of what it means to be an academic. For scholars, it can take a toll on their wellbeing and lead to stress and anxiety. For professors, the issue of a scholar’s mental health can be even more serious.

If left unaddressed, these issues can escalate into severe issues such as depression or suicide attempts. There is a need to stop this academic hazing, especially during a Ph.D., to prevent such unpleasant situations and save the mental health of our precious scholars.

We hope this article has been helpful in demonstrating the psychological effects of academic hazing, as well as some great tips to avoid them, and where to find help if you're experiencing them. If you have any questions or comments about this topic, please don’t hesitate to comment below or reach out to us through the following:

Find Support Through 1-on-1 Coaching & Mentorship:

Scholars Professional Editing Group LLC has developed a 1-on-1 coaching and mentorship program that includes not only dissertation writing support BUT mindset sessions that reverse the psychological effects of the doctoral process and help you to have clarity, deep relaxation, and focus so that you can clearly write your dissertation without the subconscious blocks.

Get In Touch with Scholars Professional Editing Group LLC:

Email US:

Contact US: (302) 295-4953




  1. Katia Levecque, Frederik Anseel, Alain De Beuckelaer, Johan Van der Heyden, Lydia Gisle, (2017). Work organization and mental health problems in Ph.D. students, Research Policy, Volume 46, Issue 4, Pages 868-879.

  2. Galen Panger (2014). Graduate Student Happiness & Well-Being Report.

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