Handling Relocation Depression: Why Does Moving Make Me Sad?

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated January 10, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Moving homes, whether to a new city, state, country, or house can feel overwhelming. You may have to move furniture, pack your items into boxes, and save money for moving expenses like a moving truck, travel costs, and moving support. After a significant move, you might find yourself feeling unusually sad, irritable, anxious, or exhausted.

Moving can cause symptoms of depression, anxiety, and adjustment issues. If you're experiencing this, you're not alone. Millions of people worldwide experience depression, and among those are individuals who are living with temporary relocation depression. Recognizing this type of depression can help you find support.

Make The Best Of Your New Home With Professional Support

What Is Relocation Depression? 

Relocation depression is a type of situational depression that occurs after relocating or moving. This type of depression is not listed in the DSM-V but may have similar symptoms to clinical depression on a short-term basis. Your symptoms are real, and support is available to you. 

Moving can be a significant life event, on par with other life events like having children, getting married, or meeting your partner. Often, significant events cause a mixture of emotions, such as happiness, excitement, stress, anger, and disappointment.

A recent study shows that moving is reported as one of the most stressful life events by individuals around the world. The study indicated that moving was often connected to a plethora of negative mental and physical health risks. 

What Are The Symptoms? 

The symptoms of relocation depression may appear similar to those of clinical depression. They include: 

  • Feeling down or experiencing a persistent low mood 

  • Feelings of anger or irritability

  • Appetite changes

  • Weight changes

  • Changes in sleep schedule 

  • Loss of interest in regular activities 

  • Social withdrawal 

  • Difficulty completing daily tasks 

  • Difficulty with personal or sleep hygiene 

  • Thoughts of suicide*


*If you are experiencing thoughts or urges of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 988 to talk to someone over SMS. They are available 24/7 to offer support.

Why Does Relocation Depression Occur? 

Relocation depression can occur due to the stress that moving often causes. Mental burnout is a leading cause of depression, and you may feel this sensation after planning a big move. 

Relocation depression might be caused by the following: 

  • Losing social connections near your previous home 

  • Feeling far away from friends and family

  • Feeling physically or mentally exhausted from moving

  • A disruption in routine 

  • Fear of uncertainty 

  • Higher financial burden than previously

  • A new career or job opportunity

  • Feeling uncertain about your surroundings

  • Losing support services in your prior location 

  • An underlying mental health issue 

If you think you may be experiencing relocation depression or an underlying mental health issue, reach out for support. 

Seven Ways To Handle Relocation Depression 

As time goes on, you may find it easier to handle any changes in routine or differences in your new life. In some cases, you could find that your new location provides benefits that your previous one did not. However, adjusting to changes can feel challenging, and there are ways to handle your symptoms in the meantime. 

Get To Know Your New Area

Consider exploring if you've recently moved to a new city, state, or country. Look online at tourist attractions in your area and become a tourist in your new home. You might find exciting or interesting activities available that weren't offered near your old home. Additionally, exploring could be a valuable way to make new friends or learn about the locals. 

If you're feeling homesick while out and about, consider taking pictures or videos of your new location and sending them to your family or friends from your old city. They might feel excited for you and help raise your spirits. See if you can find a unique spot in nature or a hiking trail near your home. Studies show that spending time in nature or changing your location can benefit your mental health. 

Make Your Home Feel As Comfortable As Possible

When you first move to a new home, you may still have everything packed up in boxes. Symptoms of depression can make it feel challenging to unpack your things and settle in. However, clutter and mess can increase depression symptoms, according to one study. You may feel more productive if you can unpack your boxes relatively quickly and make your home feel comfortable and familiar.

The majority of people report feeling most comfortable in their homes. Having a safe space to unwind after a long day can feel cathartic. Once you've unpacked your boxes, consider adding decorations around the house that make you feel peaceful and calm. 

If you don't have many decorations to unpack or put out at the moment, consider purchasing a few cheap items to increase the positive impact on your environment. 

These might include: 

  • Incense or candles that make you feel calm 

  • Wall art 

  • Throw pillows or blankets 

  • Curtains 

  • Small decorative items to put on shelves 

Find a space in your house where you can sit or lie down to feel comfortable. It may be a reading nook, a beanbag chair, or a unique recliner. When feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or depressed, spend some time in that area partaking in a calming activity. Making your new house feel like home may take some time, but it is possible. 

Practice Self-Care

Try not to neglect self-care in the process of moving. Commit to your mental well-being and stay on top of your hygiene as much as possible. Potential self-care activities can include: 

  • Light exercise such as swimming, walking, or going to the gym 

  • Deep breathing

  • Taking a shower 

  • Eating three healthy meals a day and snacking when needed 

  • Listening to music 

  • Spending time with your social circle

  • Journaling about your thoughts or emotions 

  • Practicing yoga, meditation, or mindfulness

  • Stating self-love affirmations 

  • Partaking in a creative activity

  • Sticking to your hobbies

  • Finding moments for laughter

Throw A Housewarming Party 

If you feel uncomfortable in your new home or haven't accepted that you've moved yet, consider throwing a housewarming party to celebrate the beginning of this new chapter in your life. 

If you have friends and family in the area, invite them to your new home. Doing so may motivate you to finish unpacking and clean up the house. You might also buy a few cheap party decorations and use your new kitchen for cooking a housewarming meal. 

If you're not up to a highly social event, invite only a few people and partake in a calming or low-key activity like watching a football game or chatting under the stars while sipping a drink. 

Give Yourself Time 

Try to give yourself time to adjust to your new situation. Your symptoms of depression may lessen over time as you learn more about your neighborhood, home, and new city. It’s okay to spend more time at home or focus more on self-care while feeling down in the first few months after moving. It can be a significant transition, and your body may require time to rest and recover. 

Make New Friends 

If you have moved to a location where you lack a social circle, it can seem challenging to make new friends. You might also live in a new country where the language or culture feels unfamiliar. 

If this is the case for you, research social groups in your area. You might be able to attend a support group or find a club that meets on a regular basis. If there is an activity you've always wanted to try, consider signing up for a group course or excursion. For example, you could try rock climbing, hiking, art, or poetry. See what's available where you live. 

If you're in a more rural area, sign up to meet friends online. You might be able to get local tips from others on a friendship or dating app and meet someone for drinks or food. As you make new friends, your new home could start to feel less overwhelming.

Meet With A Counselor

Finally, meeting with a counselor may be beneficial if you are unable to relieve symptoms of relocation depression on your own. Therapists are trained in addressing depression and other mental health conditions and concerns. If your depression worsens or lasts longer than a few weeks or months, your therapist may have the tools to support you during the healing process.

Online Therapy With BetterHelp

Finding a therapist can feel like another stressful task when you're in a new location. You might not have a vehicle to commute, or you could feel unmotivated to leave home for a weekly appointment in an unfamiliar location. If you relate, online counseling could be valuable to you. 

Online counseling allows you to meet with a counselor from any location with an internet connection and is often more affordable than traditional in-person counseling. A platform like BetterHelp may be able to match you with a therapist that meets your preferences and needs.

The Efficacy Of Online Therapy

Studies also indicate that internet-based counseling is significantly effective in treating symptoms of isolation, loneliness, and depression. If you’ve recently experienced a big life event, such as moving, online therapy could be even more beneficial than traditional, in-person counseling.

Takeaway

Moving can be stressful whether you’re just moving to a new house down the street or to a new country. Relocation depression commonly occurs after a significant move since it’s such a large life event. When coping with the symptoms of depression, it can be helpful to meet with a therapist to discuss your symptoms and develop a treatment plan. If you're ready to start, consider contacting an online counselor so that you can meet for sessions anytime, anywhere.

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
You don't have to face depression aloneGet Started