Recognizing the Telltale Signs of Relocation Depression

by heatfeed

Moving is one of life’s irreversible decisions, accompanied by feelings of stress, doubt, and sadness, which are entirely valid. You might expect to feel settled and content after some time in your new environment, but instead, you find yourself questioning your choices and worrying about their correctness. These sensations could be indicative of relocation depression.

Depression is a psychiatric condition that, when left unattended, can become life-threatening. It has long been a significant factor in suicides worldwide. In 2016, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recorded 44,965 suicide deaths, with over half attributed to various forms of depression.

Relocation depression is more common than people realise, yet it often goes unrecognised. Sometimes, individuals aren’t even aware that they’re suffering from it in the aftermath of a major move. Here are some signs that may suggest you are experiencing relocation depression:

1. Sleep disturbances

Sleep disruptions, particularly excessive sleeping, are amongst the most prevalent indicators of depression. Research has shown that those grappling with depression often experience fatigue and sleep deprivation, leading them to seek more rest. Additionally, changes in one’s sleep environment, such as a new room, bed, pillow, or lighting, can impact sleep patterns significantly.

2. Loss of interest in daily activities

One less conspicuous sign of depression is a lack of interest in engaging in various activities. This stems from the absence of pleasure or a sense of achievement in doing so. Individuals who have recently relocated -either by hiring removalists through their website or moving by themselves- may begin to experience this a few months after the move, following an initial period of excitement when everything seems novel. Detecting this symptom can be challenging, as the person may readily find excuses to avoid activities requiring energy. Nonetheless, there are behavioural changes to watch for in suspected cases of relocation depression:

  • Excessive time spent watching TV or using electronic devices 

Depressed individuals often try to focus on watching TV or using their gadgets to keep themselves busy, especially after they’ve just settled in. Doing so helps them avoid having to go out and socialise with the people around them.

  • Reluctance to go out and meet new people 

Whether it’s with the people from their new workplace or meeting new people, socialising and engaging with people requires a good amount of energy, which depressed individuals usually don’t have. Hence, they avoid going out and always try to find a way to dodge any form of interaction or communication.

3. Weight fluctuations

Weight gain or loss is another conspicuous sign of depression. Depressed individuals may gain weight due to a lack of motivation to exercise, seeking solace in sugary and fatty foods. 

According to James Gordon, MD, author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey out of Depression, “Some foods, especially foods with high sugar and/or fat content, make you feel better, if only briefly. That good feeling makes you want to eat more, which in turn makes you feel bad about yourself. That leads to deeper depression, and more eating, and greater amounts of weight gain. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Alternatively, depression can lead to weight loss due to a diminished interest in eating, sometimes to the point where even favourite foods go untouched.

4. Emotional imbalance and feelings of worthlessness

Depression manifests through various negative emotions, including anxiety, sadness, irritability, agitation, guilt, and a pervasive sense of emptiness. Suicidal thoughts can emerge as the condition worsens, driven by overwhelming feelings of guilt and emptiness.

The root causes of these suicidal thoughts are multifaceted, with the move itself rarely being the sole culprit. More often, it’s the persistent feeling of unfulfillment or dissatisfaction post-relocation. A few months after moving, nostalgia and “what ifs” tend to resurface, as the initial excitement subsides, and the routine sets in. People may start questioning their decision, having initially felt accomplished and satisfied with the move.

5. Culture shock

Culture shock, as described by Paul Pederson in “The Five Stages of Culture Shock: Critical Incidents Around the World,” is a complex process where individuals react to unfamiliar circumstances when interacting with a new environment or culture. Whilst not everyone who relocates experiences culture shock, it remains a significant issue that merits attention. 

In his book, Pederson outlines five stages of culture shock:

  1. Honeymoon Stage: An initial phase marked by excitement about exploring the new place and contentment with one’s choices.
  2. Rejection Stage: Overwhelmed by the demands of the new life and culture, individuals may experience feelings of guilt and personal inadequacy.
  3. Regression Stage: Adapting to new requirements and functioning in the new culture, albeit with lingering feelings of anger and resentment.
  4. Recovery Phase: After struggling to adapt, individuals begin to see both the positive and negative aspects of their new and old cultures, eventually feeling accepted.
  5. Reciprocation Interdependence: In this final stage, individuals feel “fluently comfortable” in both their new and old cultures, although debate exists about whether everyone can attain this stage.

Relocation depression is a prevalent issue, often misunderstood, and regarded as a normal part of daily life. If you encounter someone new in your neighbourhood, workplace, or if you personally experience these challenges, don’t hesitate to seek help and support to address them effectively.