When being away from home, it can be quite familiar to feel symptoms of homesickness. Once the novelty of a new place wears off and the reality of the situation your in hits, homesickness can soon follow.
Homesickness is defined as the distress caused by being away from home. Leaving your family, friends and family places can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.
When I left London for New Zealand at the age of 18, I expected a degree of homesickness. Moving home for the very first time, and to a country pretty much as far away as possible would not be easy. I didn’t know anyone and going to University is hard enough for most people.
What I didn’t expect was the degree of homesickness I would feel on my return. How can I feel unhappy that I am home with my family? I felt so heartbroken with myself that I wanted to go back to New Zealand. I felt that city I grew up in has become this scary, aggressive and daunting place. I thought that I was betraying my heritage, my place of birth and the culture I grew up with. I felt that I was letting down my family, did they not think that I was happy to see them? I was pretty messed up in the first few weeks/months when returning.
Four key points affect the susceptibility to experiencing homesickness
- Experience: If you’ve never lived away from home before, you’re probably more prone to miss it. You’re not used to coping with feelings of unfamiliarity.
- Attitude: Sometimes homesickness can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re already prepared to feel uncomfortable in a new situation, you probably will.
- Personality: Researchers talk about “insecure attachment” regarding children coping with new caregivers, but basically, if you’re not good at warming up to new people, this can obviously affect how you manage with the change.
- Outside factors: Of course, your level of homesickness will depend on how willing you were to make a move. Did you have to do it, or is this something you embraced? Your homesickness depends on how your family reacts to the change, too.
Although homesickness is not classed as a mental health condition, it can have significant detrimental effects on your mental health. Isolation and loneliness, feeding into despair and grief, with any pre-existing anxiety or depressive disorders is a horrific mix for those experiencing it. Homesickness can be overlooked or dismissed in terms of people’s mental health but is so vitally important to know the signs and to seek help where you can.