What is Homesickness?

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: I am unable to go home for Christmas and I really feel homesick. What is homesickness and what are some ways to help make it less painful?

Answer: Someone wrote, “Homesickness really isn’t about home.” That being said, the dictionary definition of “homesickness” goes something like this: “Homesickness is the distress or anxiety caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and the people who make up that home.”

Its primary symptom is a preoccupation about thoughts of home and attachment objects (people, events, and things associated with home).Those who suffer homesickness typically report a combination of symptoms often associated with depression and anxiety. They tend to withdraw and find it difficult to focus on topics unrelated to home.

In its mild form, homesickness usually results in the development of appropriate coping skills and motivates the individual toward the development of healthy attachment behaviors, such as finding healthy ways to stay in contact with loved ones.

Mild homesickness can precipitate developing new relationships that take the place of those back home. That does not mean you have to abandon your family and friends, but actually you can expand your circle of friendships and family.

Nearly all people miss something about home when they are away, or move away, making homesickness a nearly universal experience.However, intense homesickness can be painful and even debilitating. If that should happen, it is very important that you force yourself to find someone to talk with. It doesn’t have to be a therapist, but you need someone.

It would probably be better if it were not a therapist, unless it becomes deep depression. The reason it may be better if it were not a therapist is because therapists are bound by codes of ethics that prevent the development of the very kind of relationship you need.

The main thing is to get moving. Don’t hide away and focus on home. Also, challenge your thinking. Think positively and feel grateful. Be grateful for home, but look for hidden blessing right where you are. I hope this helps, and there are many websites with suggestions that will likely provide additional helpful suggestions.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]

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