WEDNESDAY, JULY 28, 2021
What is Expat Depression?
Expat depression is what it sounds like – feelings of severe and sustained despondency and dejection experienced while living abroad. The definition may be simple, but the nature of expat depression isn’t so cut and dry. This is because expat life comes with obvious challenges to emotional and mental health.
It’s almost guaranteed that at times and expat will feel dejection while living abroad. However, going through a period of homesickness and culture shock is natural and while difficult – it will pass. Expat depression – those sustained and severe feelings of dejection – is a more serious matter and deserves serious attention.
Recognizing Expat Depression
It can be hard to recognize expat depression. In fact, expats are often resistant to admitting they’re experiencing depression. There’s a few reasons for this. One is simply the nature of an expat opportunity. It comes with the pressure that you should be happy to have the opportunity in the first place. The idea that anyone would love to live abroad gives you an expectation to be happy with your circumstances. You resist the idea that you somehow aren’t constantly happy with your fortunate situation. How could you be depressed when you get to do so many things that most people only dream of?
Another reason why expats fail to see that they’re experiencing depression is because expatriating often involves a positive career move. A new or better job, like the excitement of living abroad, gives a false expectation of being happy. A change of job duties can be stressful and make someone vulnerable to depression. Doing it while abroad and adjusting to a new culture, country and work environment can make things even more difficult. When you compound those difficulties with the pressure to perform and the stigma surrounding depression, expats are even less likely to admit their depression.
Culture shock is a natural part of the expatriating experience. It usually comes in two waves where things seem great, then drop off dramatically. Life abroad becomes tough and it impacts an expats emotions. Then things start to improve, and a second drop off occurs before life eventually stabilizes. Most expats report this 5 stage cycle of culture shock’s ups and downs.
While the severity of culture shock impacts everyone differently, it’s easy to write off expat depression as a stage of culture shock. It can be normal to feel defeated and beaten down emotionally from culture shock. It’s still different than a prolonged period of severe despondency. The latter is expat depression.
Homesickness is also a natural part of the expatriate experience. It differs from culture shock because it’s, of course, centered around being separated from your home environment. It makes life difficult for expats, but it’s natural and usually temporary. Many people mistake their expat depression as homesickness and something that is only temporary.
How to Deal With Expat Depression
Expat depression hits when feelings of homesickness or culture shock give way to a long period of despondency. There are many ups and downs for an expat. You have to take stock of your feelings and your own mental health during these periods.
There are steps you can take to deal with expat depression and keep it from creeping into your life abroad. There will still be ups and downs of expat life, but you can manage the difficult times with these tips.
10 Tips to Prevent Expat Depression