Expat Mental Health: Should You See a Therapist?

If you’re an expat, you know the struggles of adjusting to a new life. Many challenges come with moving to another country. Sometimes problems arise that you didn’t anticipate, and this includes mental health issues. 

Sometimes it becomes hard to handle everyday tasks. Living abroad can be wonderful, but it’s not uncommon for expats and their families to experience mental health issues. The most common problems are anxiety and depression, but there are other ways in which the stress of leaving one’s home country can affect them. 

For this reason, we have gathered some points to help you understand how these aspects of such a major life change can affect you and how those can be addressed in therapy.

Reasons to Consider Seeing a Therapist

1. Chronic Sadness

It’s normal for people to experience sadness and feel grief for short periods. But, when you find the feeling is just not going away, it may be time to seek help. 

Sometimes this prolonged feeling could mean not adjusting well to the changes of moving and feeling down about it. It could also mean that you have lost motivation to do new things, and your previous hobbies aren’t interesting anymore. Irritability, worthlessness, and guilt are all possible emotions you can feel that signal the need for professional help. 

2. Social Withdrawal

Your own house can sometimes feel like a prison. Communicating with the new people in your new country may be uncomfortable, and the feeling isolation can be even more stressful.

You may also have issues at work or school. You might avoid interacting with others because of social anxiety, whether you’re interacting with colleagues or classmates. The language barriers can make it hard to reach out to anyone. 

3. Lack of Ability to Cope with Everyday Problems

Some problems are more complicated than others. But when every day begins to feel like a struggle, it can become a heavy burden to bear. You might have issues adjusting to the culture in your new country. You might also have problems adjusting to a new diet and might lack a healthy appetite. 

Disturbed sleep habits are another common symptom. You may sleep too much or too little. Your diet, weight, and thinking may also be different. Minor depression that was once manageable may have become a more prevalent part of your daily life. 

4. Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can happen slowly. You may find yourself drinking or smoking more than you typically do. An addiction may have developed as a result of loneliness, or as a coping mechanism that masks underlying issues. These issues may include depression or anxiety. 

Likewise, you may have begun taking pharmaceuticals to manage your anxiety or depression And formed a dependency on these drugs to the point of abuse. Any chemical dependency is significant and should be addressed by a professional.

5. Suicidal Thoughts or Feelings

If you fantasize about suicide or death or are thinking about it regularly, it’s time to get help immediately. Expats frequently develop feelings of isolation, worthlessness, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide due to their displacement in a new society.. 

Your life as it is may feel hopeless, worthless and you find yourself withdrawing from everything. You might become reckless and stop caring about putting yourself in danger. These cues are a significant indication that you are suffering from severe depression, and should be addressed with a therapist right away.

Help Preventing Mental Health Issues

While many of these issues are chemical and unavoidable, there are some things to do to prepare you for the issues you may face. Expats are at high risk for several mental health conditions that can be damaging. These mainly include anxiety and depression. 

Another common issue is known as “expat grief.” Expats will grieve for what they have left behind, be it a home, family, or friends. 

The good news is you can prepare for these common issues. People don’t plan for mental health problems, but it’s best to be aware of the risks you face. Even before you move, you can learn how to cope with the issues you’re likely to face and possibly prevent more pronounced and severe effects down the line.

Take time to consider the realities of expat life in addition to the exciting possibilities ahead. Do some research, consider talking to a mental health professional before you leave as a way to prepare for your new life abroad. Be aware of all of the risks, and make sure your expectations are realistic. There are many wonderful things to look forward to as an expat, but don’t forget that every new beginning has its challenges that must be addressed.

Contact Lisa Rogers Today for a Session

Expat anxiety can be debilitating, but it doesn’t have to ruin your new life. Counseling services can help with your anxiety, and you can even get online counseling from someone who understands the unique needs of the expat community.

At Lisa Rogers Counseling, I offer a wide range of therapy and mental health services for several areas. You are not alone in your struggle and neither are your loved ones. Reach out today to make an appointment.

I provide services in:

  • Adult Therapy: Individual, marriage, couples, group and family therapy
  • Child Therapy: Individual, group therapy, family therapy, social skills, play therapy
  • Adolescent Therapy: Individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, substance abuse

Current services are all available via Teletherapy. Contact Lisa Rogers for more information. 

Since 1993, I have been providing a combination of all my years of training tailoring specific treatments based on the individual needs and challenges of my patients, facilitating healing. I make every effort to accommodate the busy schedules of my patients by offering evenings, weekend appointments and Telemental Health (Online Counseling-Virtual/Video Conference and Phone Sessions) offered in the following states I am licensed in: New York, California, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, Florida, and Vermont.