Reactions to being hazed vary. Two people who go through the same experience might feel quite differently. Some people feel relatively positive about going through hazing (seeing it as an achievement), some feel mildly annoyed, and others have strong negative reactions. Reactions depend on the extent of the hazing, individual characteristics, and past experiences. For people who have been abused in the past, hazing can be re-traumatizing.
The impact that prolonged hazing can have on one’s mental health is described first-hand by Adam Zwecker ’04 in an excerpt from his award-winning paper “Hazed and Confused.”
“It is not hard to imagine that drastically recreating oneself to take on a whole new persona must take a significant emotional toll on a pledge. The pressure of having to constantly manage one’s impression upon those around him and the perpetual difficulty of acting a part around one’s new group of friends to maintain a desired status among an in-group leads to a number of psychological struggles. Not surprisingly there were several kids who suffered meltdowns or became depressed to the point of contemplating suicide... After weeks of attempting to recreate one’s personality many pledges must find themselves wondering who they are or who they have become.
“Some pledges successfully circumvent the process either because they already fit the mold of a Delta Gam (not the real name) before they begin to pledge or because they are too headstrong to allow themselves to be broken down and recreated. Others aren’t so fortunate. In my pledge class we had several kids suffer from depression that was either brought on or exacerbated by pledging, and at least one of them contemplated and later attempted suicide.
“General melancholy and constant anxiety were everyday realities for most pledges, who lived in fear of the next line up or verbal assault by their older brothers. There was a look in the eyes of all of the pledges, who had to eat at a separate table from all of the brothers, of paranoia. Meals typically became silent meals more out of the fear of drawing the attention of frat brothers who might decide to turn a routine dinner into another opportunity to degrade their brothers to be. On weekends it was not unusual to see anxiety overcome many pledges as their fears and suspicions stemming from the approaching Sunday line up began to eat at them. Since quizzes and chores assigned to pledges were intended to be nearly impossible to accomplish, it was inevitable that some pledges would have unfulfilled duties and incorrect answers to quiz questions that would soon come to haunt them in the form of an additional 100 push ups and being ceremonially chastised by frat brothers.”