Moving is often a stressful experience. For some, it can trigger relocation depression — an informal term to describe an adjustment disorder.
Moving can be stressful. Even if you’ve been looking forward to the move, relocating can trigger or aggravate depression. This is often called “relocation depression.”
Relocating can be a drastic change, and all drastic changes can affect your mental health. You might experience symptoms of depression, such as feelings of sadness, lack of pleasure, and exhaustion. Relocation depression can also affect your appetite, sleep pattern, and ability to concentrate.
If you’re experiencing relocation depression, you aren’t alone. It’s possible to find support and begin feeling better.
Relocation depression is a colloquial term used to describe an adjustment disorder due to moving. It’s not a formal diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition text revision (DSM-5-TR) — the manual used to define and diagnose mental health conditions in the United States.
If what you’re experiencing is an adjustment disorder, symptoms are expected to resolve within the first 6 months. If symptoms persist, you may be diagnosed with clinical depression.
Changing homes can be very disruptive. This disruption to your routine — as well as the anxiety associated with the move and adapting to a new space — can trigger deep but temporary sadness. In some cases, moving might also mean losing your support network, experiencing culture shock, and feeling isolated from others.
Moving frequently in childhood is associated with poor mental health, according to research from 2017. A
And young people aren’t the only ones who experience relocation depression. A
Although feelings of sadness and even emptiness when moving can be painful, these symptoms generally do not qualify for a clinical diagnosis. However, if you believe you could benefit from professional help to find ways to cope, that is always an option regardless of the severity of your symptoms.
Symptoms of relocation depression
The symptoms of relocation depression are the same as the symptoms of depression.
As per the DSM-5-TR, symptoms of depression include:
- changes in your appetite (either increasing or decreasing)
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling sad, numb, or hopeless
- irritability and increased anger
- loss of interest in your usual hobbies and passions
- loss of interest in socializing
- physical aches and pains that are otherwise unexplained
- sleeping too much or too little
- thoughts or plans of suicide or self-harm
You might also experience feelings of regret about your move. You might second-guess your decision to relocate or doubt your ability to adapt to your new circumstances.
Is it relocation sadness or depression?
Just because you’re feeling down after a move doesn’t mean that you have a depressive disorder. However, it’s possible to experience clinical depression because of a relocation.
The difference between sadness and depression is that depression is persistent. It can only be considered depression if the symptoms:
- are present for at least 2 weeks
- negatively affect multiple aspects of your life, making it difficult to function
Regardless of whether you’re experiencing full-blown relocation depression or some post-move blues, you can benefit from speaking with a mental health professional.
There’s not enough research to determine who is more likely to experience relocation depression specifically. However, certain factors can increase your risk for clinical depression.
- Identity: The risk of depression for transgender people is nearly 4 times that of cisgender people.
- Genetics: If you have a family history of depression, you’re
more likelyto develop it.
- Vitamin D deficiency:
Studieshave linked depressive symptoms to low levels of vitamin D.
- Substance misuse: Research suggests that people who have a substance use disorder are more likely to have depression.
- Physical illnesses: Depression is associated with other chronic medical illnesses, such as
heart diseaseand cancer.
With that said, anybody can experience relocation depression.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is one of the
Many different types of psychotherapy can be used to address depression, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy.
Numerous kinds of medication can be used to treat depression. Antidepressant medications must be prescribed by a doctor who will determine whether medication is suitable for you. They will also determine which medication will likely be best for you.
Medication can be used alongside talk therapy to treat depression and other conditions.
Research-backed self-care strategies for depression include:
enough sleepeach night
- eating balanced, nutritious meals to support your brain and body
- engaging in exercise several times a week
- practicing meditation regularly
- spending time in nature to
boost your mood
- journaling and engaging in creative hobbies
- reducing alcohol and drug use
Often, moving can shake up our usual routines. You might lose habits that support your mental health, such as regular exercise and a good sleep pattern. Getting back into those routines might be helpful. If you haven’t established those habits in your new environment yet, it’s never too late to start.
Doing the above activities may feel like a tall order when you’re depressed. Try taking a “something is better than nothing” approach to creating a healthier lifestyle.
If a long gym session sounds too difficult, consider going for a 10-minute walk around your block or even inside your home. If a 20-minute meditation session doesn’t sound possible, meditate for 60 seconds. Aim for progress, not perfection.
You could also try to build one habit at a time. Perhaps start with sleep by practicing sleep hygiene every evening. This can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. If you’re struggling to fall asleep in your new home, try visualization or guided meditation for insomnia.
It’s not always possible to prevent relocation depression. However, taking care of yourself can make a positive difference.
When you move, try the following:
- Let yourself grieve your old home: Even if you were excited for your move, and even if you believe the move was a good idea, it’s natural to feel sad after relocating. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.
- Stay connected with loved ones: If you move cities, scheduling video calls may be helpful.
- Create new connections: Try meeting new people by joining classes and clubs.
- Find parts of your new home that you love: Whether it’s a cozy corner in your home or a nearby park, try to find aspects of your new home that you enjoy.
- Nest: Decorating, rearranging, or cleaning your home might help you feel more settled and comfortable in your new space.
- Create a routine: Getting into a new routine might help you feel less unsettled. It can also help you practice healthy self-care habits that support your mental health, such as meditating or eating regularly.
- Reach out for help: Moving is difficult, even if you don’t experience relocation depression. Pre-emptively seeing a therapist can help you adjust to the change.
Relocating can be exciting — but it can also have an impact on your mental health. If you’re experiencing relocation depression, know that you’re not alone. It’s possible to find help and eventually start feeling better.
If you’re depressed or think you’re depressed, consider speaking with a therapist. Also, consider engaging in habits that help you feel grounded and relaxed, such as exercising, socializing, or simply getting enough sleep.