Updated: May 3
I've been living as an expatriate now for over 15 years. It can be such a wonderful experience to be able to live-and-work in someone else's country, to learn from a different cultural mindset to my own and hopefully be able to give something back, for the privilege of being a guest. Making the move can take a bit of courage though and can sometimes overwhelm us. Then, there's getting help with mental and emotional help as an expat. It can be difficult when in an environment where people do not share the same cultural context as your own.
For some expats, the stress of relocation can cause or worsen existing mental health problems, such as clinical depression. Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a serious and complex mental health condition that can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing. In this blog article, I’ll discuss what clinical depression is, how to diagnose it, how to manage depression as an expat and where to get help.
What is Clinical Depression?
Clinical depression is a mental health disorder characterised by persistent and intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness that can interfere with your daily life. It is more than just feeling sad or “down in the dumps”; the symptoms of clinical depression can be so severe that they can affect your ability to work, socialise, and even take care of yourself.
Clinical depression is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. It is also more likely to occur in people who have a family history of depression or other mental health issues.
Signs and Symptoms of Clinical Depression
The signs and symptoms of clinical depression can vary from person to person, but generally include persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite or weight, sleep disturbances, irritability, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Other physical symptoms may include headaches, digestive problems, and chronic pain.
Depressed people may also experience feelings of guilt or worthlessness, difficulty making decisions, suicidal thoughts, and difficulty connecting with others. It is important to note that some of these signs and symptoms may be due to other medical or mental health conditions.
How to Diagnose Clinical Depression
If you are experiencing the symptoms of clinical depression, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional. A mental health professional can diagnose clinical depression by performing a physical exam, asking questions about your medical and mental health history, and conducting a mental health evaluation.
The mental health evaluation will likely include a questionnaire to determine the severity of your symptoms and a review of your medical and mental health history. Your mental health professional may also do a psychological evaluation to assess how your thoughts and feelings are affecting your daily life.
How to Treat Clinical Depression
There are a number of treatments available for clinical depression, including medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Medication is usually prescribed to help reduce the symptoms of depression, while psychotherapy can help you learn coping strategies and address underlying issues that may be contributing to your depression.
Making lifestyle changes can also be beneficial for managing depression. Exercise, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and limiting alcohol and drug use can all help to reduce the symptoms of depression. Additionally, connecting with other people and engaging in activities you enjoy can help to boost your mood and improve your overall wellbeing.
Navigating Clinical Depression as an Expat
Moving abroad can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming. For people with clinical depression, the stress of relocation can worsen existing symptoms or trigger new ones. It is important for expats to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression and to seek help if needed.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to speak to a mental health professional or doctor. They can provide support and guidance on how to best manage your condition. Additionally, there are a number of online resources available for expats experiencing depression, such as support groups, online forums, and mental health websites.
How to Cope with Depression After Moving
Coping with depression as an expat can be challenging, but there are a few strategies that can help. The first is to establish a routine. Establishing a regular sleep schedule, eating healthy meals, and getting regular exercise can help to reduce stress and improve your mood.
Additionally, it is important to make time for yourself. Make sure to schedule time each day to do something you enjoy, such as meditating, reading, or writing. Connecting with other expats can also be beneficial; you can join online forums or support groups, or attend events in your local area.
How to Get Out of a Depression Funk
If you are in a depression funk, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are a number of resources available to help you get out of a funk and start feeling better.
One of the most effective strategies is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of the present moment and observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Practicing mindfulness can help to reduce the intensity of your negative thoughts and emotions and can help to improve your overall wellbeing.
Other helpful strategies for getting out of a funk include practicing gratitude, engaging in physical activity, and reaching out to friends and family. It can also be helpful to talk to a mental health professional or doctor if you are feeling overwhelmed.
How to Deal with "manic" Depression
I dislike this word "manic". But manic depression is now known as bipolar disorder. It is a mental health condition characterised by extreme shifts in mood. People with bipolar disorder depression experience alternating periods of depression and "mania". When I work with people who have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder it seems to me that they have periods with "high energy" and periods where they are very "low energy". These symptoms of extreme energy shift can be disabling and interfere with daily life.
Treatment for manic depression typically includes medication and psychotherapy. Medication can help to reduce the severity of manic and depressive episodes, while psychotherapy can help to address underlying issues and provide coping strategies. Additionally, lifestyle changes, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in regular exercise can help to manage the symptoms of manic depression.
How to Handle Depression Related to Moving
Moving can be a stressful and overwhelming experience, and for some people, the stress of relocation can trigger or worsen existing depression. If you are experiencing depression related to moving, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional or doctor.
Additionally, there are a few strategies you can use to cope with depression related to moving. It can be helpful to make time for yourself each day, practice mindfulness, and reach out to friends and family members. Additionally, engaging in activities you enjoy and connecting with other expats can help to reduce stress and improve your mood.
Help and Support for Expats with Depression
If you are an expat struggling with depression, it is important to remember that you are not alone. There are a number of resources available to help you cope with depression, such as online support groups, mental health websites, and forums. Additionally, there are a number of mental health professionals and doctors who specialise in treating expats with depression.
Depression is a serious and complex mental health condition that can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing. Moving abroad can be a difficult and overwhelming process, and for some expats, the stress of relocation can worsen existing mental health issues, such as clinical depression. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to speak to a mental health professional or doctor. There are a number of treatments available for clinical depression, including medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Additionally, there are a number of online resources available for expats experiencing depression, such as support groups, online forums, and mental health websites.
Remember, you are not alone. If you are an expat struggling with depression, there are a number of resources available to help you cope and manage your condition. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional or doctor. With the right support and treatment, it is possible to manage clinical depression and live a happy and fulfilling life.