You're an expat, a new immigrant, an exchange student... You recently relocated to a different country, or state, and you're still carried by the momentum of your move.
You're still full of excitement, hopes and dreams. If you moved to a place that excites you, you may be caught up in the novelty of your environment, the busyness of getting settled, and you may even feel like you're on an extended vacation.
How can moving away cause depression?
At some point, it hits you: this is not a vacation, this is actually your new life. You've left for good your old home, friends, colleagues or family. Your whole support system is far from you. You may have even left a great job to follow your partner.
Your favorite restaurants, coffee shop, park... you start missing your daily routine and familiar life, especially as you have to learn the ins and outs of your new area.
While grieving the loss of this life is normal, symptoms of depression can often set in without you realizing it.
Relocation Depression Symptoms
People react differently to residential relocation, immigration or expatriation and some handle sudden changes much better than others.
Some expats breeze through the post-move period by diving headfirst into their new environment, and they don’t seem to be affected much by the change of scenery.
Other people tend to have more serious troubles adapting to the unfamiliar settings and need more time to properly settle in, but they're often not aware of the emotional impact the move had on them. They are still able to find ways to counteract and recover from that relocation depression stage.
Another group of people get hit by severe relocation depression and have a really hard time regaining their normal inner rhythm.
These people often go through a long period of denial or they are simply not able to recognize the signs that something is not right. Sometimes they convinced themselves so well that everything at their new location will be perfect, that they don't notice or refuse to admit that their actual experience is far from their original expectations. They were supposed to be having it all.
Here are some of the more typical symptoms of relocation depression you need to pay attention to once the dust settles after your move.
• Excessive or poor sleep
You sleep more than you normally do or you have trouble sleeping.
• Uncharacteristic tiredness
You wake up tired and devoid of energy even after a good night’s sleep, then you start your day feeling sluggish.
• Unwillingness to leave the house
You’re spending most of your time inside your home, watching TV and are reluctant or even fear to step beyond your doorstep. You automatically reject any invitations or suggestions to go out and do something outside the confines of your house.
• Lack of desire to socialize
You have no interest in or you’re even scared to meet and interact with new people, and you prefer to spend your days on your own.
• Tangible apathy
You find yourself having a notable lack of interest in doing anything special, and fill your time sleeping or watching TV.
• Increased anxiety
Anxiety often comes hand-in-hand with depression, especially in situational circumstances such as a major move or relocation. You start to notice that you become overwhelmed with anxiety or suffer from panic attacks.
Often times, you don't even notice you're depressed. You're so busy and focused at first, that when that initial whirlwind passes, you may end up sitting down to relax, only to find that several months have gone by and you're in a rut.
And, if you followed your partner to this new city (aka the accompanying spouse or partner), left your career, and have no job lined up, this is something you especially need to pay attention to.
If you've tried a lot of different tools on your own, and nothing seems to help you get out of this funk, seek some professional help sooner than later.
In my next blog post, I'm sharing 11 TIPS TO GET OVER YOUR RELOCATION FUNK.
About the author: Valerie Abitbol, LMFT, owner of Flow Counseling, PLLC is a counselor and therapist in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in couples and women dealing with major life transitions. She helps them move from feeling scared and overwhelmed to finding balance and a new normal in their lives. Valerie also provides counseling to couples to help them heal, reconnect, and grow happiness.