depressed expatriates

Being depressed abroad can be overwhelming but there is help.

There are few statistics on depression and mental health issues among expatriates. Even without data it isn’t surprising that moving to another country can trigger emotional problems as you adjust to your new surroundings.

Moving to a new country, especially one with a very different culture to your own, can cause feelings of anxiety and stress. These can then develop into depression.

Dr Kirsten Hogh Thorgersen, Dutch professor at Sun Yat-Sen university, Guangzhou told China Daily, “When you arrive in a new culture, you’re shaken in self-confidence, and the more different the culture is, the greater the challenge.

If you don’t find a way to stabilize, you start to suffer problems. The most common of these is the duality of depression and anxiety.”

The symptoms of depression vary but the some common ones are:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • insomnia or oversleeping
  • irritability
  • significant changes to eating patterns
  • lack of interest in hobbies or daily activities

Ways to help with depression abroad

The causes and treatment of depression varies between expat demographics. Professional expats face different challenges to expat spouses for example.

Alleviation of depression comes with an understanding of the culture, in particular the language, of the new country. Expats with a greater awareness of their surroundings have more confidence in their ability to manage daily tasks. This is turn limits feelings of inadequacy and anxiety which trigger depression in the first place.

If you are suffering from a ‘bad’ day you should seek out familiar things and take comfort from a routine. Watching TV shows, reading news from home, meeting friends from the same country and eating familiar food will all help.

On ‘good’ days it is important to make time to explore the local culture, in particular the language.

Dr Thorgersen explained, studying the language is a “magic device to overcome depression and anxiety” because you can develop at your own pace.

“The healing will come from connecting with the culture.”