MV Choices: Postgraditis

Postgraditis is more than making good grades or feeling smart.

Many people may perform well on tests in school or even make firsts during their undergraduate degrees, but postgraditis is when you choose a topic and obsessively study it until you know more about it than everyone else. Postgraditis, and its more severe form PhDitis, is a chronic condition that affects a small percentage of the population. Though rare, it is a serious and acute disease with lasting side effects.

Some people still think that postgraditis is trivial and not a genuine health condition. They’re wrong. Postgraditis can seriously affect the well being and relationships of those diagnosed with the condition. It can affect eating habits, sleep patterns, and can interfere with one’s social life, leading to loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

Postgraditis can take many forms. It can range from those who develop a tendency to collect plant samples, take the opportunity to experiment with lasers, have a fixation on numbers, or even more dangerous flights of philosophical fancy. Those vulnerable to this disease must be aware of the symptoms in order to increase the chances of an early diagnosis.

The symptoms of postgraditis can be complex and vary widely between people. But as a general rule, if you have postgraditis, you swing between feelings of idealism, self-importance, and generally feeling ‘on top of the world’ and feeling stressed, anxious, and like you no longer time have time for extracurricular things you used to enjoy.

If you think you or a loved one might be suffering from postgraditis, consider the following questions:

  • Are you looking at graduate programmes or are already enrolled in a graduate programme at a university?
  • Do you make more than one trip to the library per day?
  • Do you have more than 100 books on or around your desk?
  • Do you find yourself contorting yourself on the floor in stretching exercises or yoga poses recommended by your physiotherapist?
  • Do you frequently eat more than one meal in your office?
  • Do you find yourself referring to your office or lab as ‘home’?
  • Do you use words such as ‘sign’ and ‘signifier’ during dinner conversations (and know what they mean)?
  • Do you spend an inordinate amount of time on Wikipedia or becoming intimately familiar with the inner workings of the BBC or The Guardian websites?

If you answered yes to two or more of the above questions, you might have a case of postgraditis. However, there are many other symptoms of postgraditis and you’re unlikely to have every one listed above.

There is no single cause of postgraditis.

You can develop it for different reasons. However, studies show that those with undergraduate degrees are more likely to develop this condition.

If you have postgraditis or PhDitis it is important to talk to your local academic advisor.

There are no physical tests for postgraditis. The main way in which your academic advisor will tell if you have postgraditis is by asking you lots of questions about your educational history and how the way you are feeling is affecting you mentally. Try to be as open as you can with your academic advisor. Describing your symptoms and how they are affecting you will really help your academic advisor understand if you have postgraditis and how severe it is.

Living with postgraditis may be difficult, but also can be very rewarding.

Not all of the consequences of postgraditis and PhDitis are bad. In many cases it can lead to a sense of purpose, a new prefix to your name, or even a career. Many people make long-lasting friendships during this time and even meet their life-partner. Postgraditis is not a life-threatening disease and often goes away after 1-10 years.

There are some key steps you can take to help your recovery from postgraditis.

  • Eat well. It is important to maintain a healthy diet while coping with postgraditis. Research suggests that eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, monitoring your alcohol intake, and including a regular amount of cake is essential to surviving postgraditis in good health.
  • Get regular sleep. The organ most affected by postgraditis is your brain. Your brain needs regular times to recharge, which is best done while you are asleep. However, too much sleep can lead to lethargy and distraction, so it is important to find a balance that best works for you.
  • Exercise. It has been shown that being physically active lifts your mood and can reduce stress and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your self-esteem. Taking a short walk after lunch can also reduce the tension that comes from staring at a computer screen or bending over books for most of the morning.
  • Find other people with postgraditis. In order to fight loneliness and isolation, it is important to make friends and find ways to be social. Many universities have support groups for those with postgraditis, called ‘forums’ or ‘societies’.
  • Be organised. Keep a diary and keep good notes. This will be essential when you find that you need to remember something you read from three or four years ago. The more organised you are the easier your recovery will be.
  • Meet regularly with your academic advisor. Your academic advisor is there to help you. This can be a fruitful and rewarding relationship. In the rare case where your assigned academic advisor is unhelpful, absent, or too busy, find someone to be an unofficial mentor to help you during your recovery.
  • Do your work. Once you are diagnosed with postgraditis, often the recommended course of recovery is to finish your degree. Remain diligent and keep working. Remember: The only person responsible for a full recovery is you.

Postgraditis does not appear in children and rarely in people under the age of twenty-one.