Expat Blues

Bad mood or depressed?

Having a bad mood for a day (or even a week) doesn’t mean you are depressed. It’s normal to experience both positive and negative emotions as appropriate responses to life events, but your ups and downs should balance each other and you should have the resilience to come back to your center. However, if you are starting to feel hopeless and overwhelmed, please pay attention. Sleep disorders and appetite changes are core symptoms of  a (major) depression.

Three types of depression

There are three types of depression, all of which share symptoms like feeling the blues, loss of appetite or increased appetite, change in sex drive, trouble sleeping, lack of energy, apathy, problems concentrating, feelings of guilt, physical pain, agitation, feelings of hopelessness.

Dysthymia

Dysthymia is a chronic, low-grade depression that lasts over a long period of time (at least two years). It involves chronic symptoms that do not disable but yet prevent the affected person from functioning at “full steam”. Its long-lasting nature allows one to adjust to its symptoms somewhat, making a depressed mood seem like the normal every day nature of things. Sadness, despair and loneliness are frequent companions.

Situational depression

Situational depression, also known as reactive depression or adjustment disorder, is a form of depression resulting from environmental causes such as the loss of a loved one or negative changes in environment. Situational depression can have more severe symptoms but is temporary in nature. The depressed person is aware of the connection. Reactive depression is not endogenous but consequent to external factors. Therefore, the patient does not accept the depression as a way of living and will try to find a way to escape the depressing conditions.

Clinical depression

Clinical depression is a more severe form of depression. To be diagnosed with clinical depression, you must meet the symptom criteria for major depressive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty or tearful (in children and teens, depressed mood can appear as constant irritability)
  • Significantly reduced interest or feeling no pleasure in all or most activities
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite (in children, failure to gain weight as expected)
  • Insomnia or increased desire to sleep
  • Either restlessness or slowed behavior that can be observed by others
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Trouble making decisions, or trouble thinking or concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide attempt

Expat blues, the depression of the trailing spouse

Expat partners tend to suffer from situational depression, although unresolved grieve can lead to a more chronic form of depression. Expat depression is most prevalent among female trailing spouses and teens. Trailing spouses whose husbands may spend significant time traveling often feel lonely and say their relationships suffer because of difficulty with communication and a lack of support. Adolescents often feel overwhelmed and disconnected from busy parents. They miss extended family members, friends, and the comfort zone of their home countries.

Treatment

If you are diagnosed with mild depression you may not need medications. Changes in lifestyle, behavioral therapy, and various natural supplements can all help with minor forms of situational depression. A coach or counselor can help you to get back on track.
If you are experiencing a major depressive disorder, talk to your doctor.

Depression is not a weakness

In our social media-driven world, we like to pretend that we’re happy and positive all the time. Negative emotions have become a sign of weakness and inadequacy, forcing us to internalize how we’re really feeling and creating even bigger problems. Don’t fall into this trap! You are not the only one who is experiencing these negative feelings. Filling the gap with social networks, alcohol and gaming is not going to make you happy in the long run. Don’t let life go by. Find help and start focusing again on your unique goals. Live life at its full potential.