Why You May Feel Depressed After Moving

Moving can be exciting, filled with opportunities and new experiences. If we're lucky, it's a catalyst for growth and reinvention, allowing us to step into another version of ourselves without judgment or pretenses. But moving can also be overwhelming. It can be scary, difficult, and sometimes a little lonely too.

The funny thing about depression is that we often feel like we're not entitled to our sadness. We tell ourselves we should be happy or grateful — or at least that we should be stronger. We ask ourselves why we aren't, and then we start beating ourselves up for it. If you're feeling down after a move, you're not alone. BetterHelp explains that trauma doesn't just occur as the result of some big catastrophe. Some people experience transitional trauma in response to big life changes like moving. Relocation depression is a feeling of persistent sadness that can develop after moving away from the place you once called home. Whether you changed countries, cities, towns, or homes within the same town doesn't matter. Relocation depression is a real thing — one that isn't so hard to understand when you really think about it.

Causes and symptoms of relocation depression

Psych Central explains that when we move, we often experience change in every aspect of our lives. Perhaps you're leaving behind a place you love, or the only home you've ever known. And with it, you're also putting distance between you and all of the connections you made, the places you loved to hang out, the grocery store you memorized. All of this change in such a short amount of time can be both jarring and exhausting. And while it's normal to feel sadness and homesickness in the wake of a big move, depression is another story altogether.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is characterized by persistent symptoms lasting longer than two weeks that interfere with one's sleeping and eating habits, relationships, work, interests, and self-image. Crossroads Health says that people with relocation depression might experience feelings of agitation, hopelessness, forgetfulness, and isolation.

How to manage relocation depression

If you have symptoms of depression after a big move, it's important to remember that you're not doomed to a life of nostalgia. BetterHelp reminds us that human beings are adaptable creatures, designed to shapeshift and acclimate to our environment. Until then, Psych Central recommends taking steps to make yourself feel more at home in your new place. They suggest finding "anchors" in your new city, like a new morning coffee spot, a grocery store, a park, or a yoga studio. This will give you a sense of belonging and ownership over your new place. And instead of diving into endless hours of Netflix every evening, FaceTime your family or set up a Zoom call with some friends so you can have a glass of wine and chat with someone familiar. But don't get too wrapped up in staying in on the phone! Make sure you put yourself out there so you can expand your circle to your new place as well. You might try a cool happy hour, take fitness or art classes, or volunteer somewhere.

If at the end of the day you feel like you need more help than you can give yourself, don't be afraid to seek out a therapist or ask your doctor if medication might be beneficial for you. Needing a little help doesn't make your big move any less brave.