Relocation Depression: What You Should Know

Relocation Depression: What You Should Know

Man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench. The man looks depressed, and holds his head in his hands.

Moving to a new place can be an exciting adventure, but it often comes with challenges. One of the most difficult aspects of relocating is dealing with relocation depression. Relocation depression symptoms include feelings of sadness, loneliness, and stress that frequently accompany a move to a new home. In this post, we will define relocation depression and explore strategies to help you overcome it.

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Relocation Depression Symptoms

Defining Depression

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the clinical definition of depression is “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” Symptoms of depression include, but aren’t limited to: 

  • Feelings of intense or lasting sadness 
  • Loss of interest or lack of pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite, and sometimes weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Disruption of sleeping patterns – trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Lack of energy or feelings of exhaustion or fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (inability to sit still, pacing, handwringing) 
  • Feeling of worthlessness, guilt, and hopelessness
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death 

Relocation Depression Versus Depression

Many of these symptoms are also associated with, sometimes more intense, but not necessarily persistent bouts of sadness or grief. If you’ve recently moved, it is normal to experience a sense of loss. You may experience some symptoms, but if they last for longer than two weeks, you may have relocation depression. Relocation depression is typically viewed as a subtype in the larger depression umbrella. A licensed therapist would help determine how serious your depression is and options to treat it.

Relocation depression may come as a surprise to someone that has never experienced prolonged feelings of sadness or disorientation before. It’s important to recognize that some individuals are genetically predisposed to depression, and that depressive episodes can be triggered by major life changes such as moving. 

In these situations, it is not the individuals fault that they are experiencing difficult emotions. Before, they may have been unaware of their predisposition, and simply require some additional support to help them manage their new landscape.

What Causes Relocation Depression?

Missing Friends and Family

Leaving behind friends and family is one of the hardest parts of moving to a new place. The loss of your support system and the relationships you’ve built can lead to feelings of sadness and loneliness. To help with this, make an effort to stay in touch with the people you’ve left behind through phone calls, video chats, and messaging. Also, work on building a new support system by getting out and meeting new people with similar interests and joining local social groups.

Unfamiliar Surroundings

Moving to a new place where everything feels foreign and unfamiliar can be disorienting and anxiety-provoking. Not knowing your way around or where to find places and resources you need can contribute to relocation depression. The key is to explore your new surroundings and get to know the area. Go for walks or drives to learn the layout of your neighborhood. Check out nearby points of interest like restaurants, shops, parks, and public transit. The more you learn about your new location, the more comfortable and at home you will feel.

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Life Changes and Uncertainty

A move often brings many life changes that can be stressful and lead to feelings of uncertainty. Things like finding a new job or school, financial changes, learning your way around a new home, and more can pile up and feel overwhelming. It’s important to remember that it’s normal to feel stressed and to give yourself time to adjust to all the changes. Try to maintain a routine, connect with others, engage in self-care, and be flexible as you settle into your new surroundings. With time, the uncertainty will fade, and you’ll establish a new normal.

Man in white polo shirt using a tablet computer looks stressed while standing in front of a moving truck. One relocation depression symptom is anxiety.

How Long Does Relocation Depression Last?

Situational Depression

It’s hard to put a timeline on when your feelings of depression might end, if they “end” at all. For some, healing is just a matter of accepting change and learning a few coping skills to help them through the transition of moving. If your sadness and loneliness is more temporary than long-lasting, then your depression may only be situational. The more time you spend in a new location, the less your symptoms of relocation depression will last. Most clinicians say situational depression lasts anywhere between three and six months. By learning coping skills, you may be able to speed the process of adjustment up slightly, or ease some of the stress. 

Clinical Depression

For others, relocation depression symptoms may stick around for months, especially if they’re particularly affected by the change, have had depressive episodes in the past, or have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder or something similar. For these individuals, moving may have been the spark that illuminated a larger concern. This doesn’t mean that the difficult feelings will never go away, but it may mean that the symptoms last longer as you explore treatment options. Regardless of the length of your depression, there are numerous options for treatment. Receiving a diagnosis can also be a very positive experience that sets you in the direction of happiness.

Conclusion

Relocation depression is very common, but there are many effective strategies to help you overcome it. Focus on staying connected with friends and family, getting to know your new area, giving yourself time to adjust to life changes, and practicing self-care. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a counselor or support group if needed. 

If your moving journey has not yet started, and you’re anxious that you may struggle with relocation depression, hiring professional movers can also alleviate some stress. Alternatively, if you have a friend or family member that’s currently battling relocation depression, consider offering unpacking help or researching some places that could make them feel at home.

No matter where you are in your journey, with patience and effort, you can work through relocation depression and learn to thrive in your new home.

Grace currently lives in Nashville, TN. She grew up in the Southeastern United States and graduated from College of Charleston, in Charleston, South Carolina. Her degree is in Political Science with a focus in International Relations, but she has a passion for all things communication and writing.