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Homesickness in Adults

Adele Wilde

Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Perth, Western Australia

Homesickness is an emotional state of mind, where the affected person experiences intense feelings of longing due to separation from home environment and loved ones. The feelings that are most identified with homesickness are nostalgia, grief, depression, anxiety, sadness, and withdrawal.

People live away from home for many reasons including, emigration, work opportunities (includes fly in fly out workers and 457 visas), study, sport, armed forces, leaving home as a refugee, marrying someone from a different country to your own and moving there, volunteering, and planned extensive travel. Physical illness can also see people having to move to climates that are better suited to their physical needs and also specialist services.

Homesickness occurs during a time of change and is a natural response to loss and adjustment, usually a normal process experienced by many adults living or travelling away from home. Even though we may have chosen to move or travel to new places, we may still feel homesick. It can take time to adjust to new surroundings, and as humans we naturally tend to resist change; we are attached to familiar surroundings. As we grieve the loss of the familiar and the usual sources of support, we may become insecure and find it difficult to function as usual. Sometimes the insecurity and loneliness, the longing for the familiar, can become overwhelming. Without our usual framework of support, tasks that have normally been easy can suddenly seem like a challenge, and sometimes impossible as we battle with the emotion and physical symptoms experienced through homesickness.

Homesickness can affect us both mentally and physically. The time taken, and degree of difficulty we experience in adapting to a new environment, differs for each person. There are mixed emotions as we struggle to adopt and appreciate our new situation, and loosen the strings that maintain our attachment to home and the familiar.

What are some of the Signs of Homesickness

  • Feeling sad, lonely, helpless
  • Depressed, depressive thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Sense of insecurity
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Feeling that we don't belong.
  • Wanting to leave.
  • Crying as we think of and miss home
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of concentration at work/studies
  • Loss of confidence
  • Not being able to enjoy fully
  • Loss of motivation/enthusiasm
  • Simple tasks become difficult and challenging
  • Social withdrawal and an unwillingness to engage in and commit to social events
  • Irritability/ complaining
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Isolating
  • Physical illness as a result of excessive mental stress or poor diet
  • Headaches/stomachaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue/lethargy

Often recognising that the cause of negative emotions is usually the result of a transition instead of the new situation itself, can be crucial in adjusting our outlook and gaining perspective.

Homesickness can affect people of all ages, in many situations. It is not unusual for some people to feel homesick after only a few days away, and also not something to feel ashamed of.

Ways in Which We Can Deal with Homesickness

  • Allow yourself to feel sad, and have a good cry when needed.
  • Take care of yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Establish a routine as soon as possible and create a work, leisure balance.
  • Attempt to try and connect with others. Give making new friends a chance.
  • Get involved in new activities, sport, organisations and events.
  • Explore your surroundings, seek out interesting places, be active and make time to familiarize yourself with your new community. Stepping out of your "homesick zone" by travelling around in a new place can be exciting and educational.
  • Keep in touch with family and friends regularly by phone, skype, email or letters. You may need to decide whether it's best for you to have more frequent contact with home (if it makes you feel better) or less contact (if it makes you feel worse). Set up a routine of phone contact with friends and loved ones at home.
  • Being open to the positive aspects of your new situation, make a list if this helps.
  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling, a partner, friend, counsellor, or sympathetic colleague.
  • Keeping familiar things such as photos, favourite possessions etc from home can give you comfort whilst you adjust.
  • Planning a home visit can often be helpful, although can also be unsettling if going back too often.
  • Invite your family and friends to come and visit.

The duration and experience of homesickness differs between individuals. Not everyone misses the same thing as another. One person may miss their family and pets, another, their friends or workmates and work environment, and another, the familiar physical or environmental surroundings.

Overcoming homesickness can often feel at first 'all too hard' as we attempt to motivate ourselves and be open to the challenge of embracing our new lives away from home. Adult homesickness is usually a temporary phase, although for some, can be long lasting. By attempting to remain positive and involved, whilst allowing yorself the time to grieve and feel whatever emotions arise, homesickness will more often than not fade as you adjust to your new environment.

If you feel you would like help coping with homesickness, Adele can be contacted by email or mobile phone.

Phone: 0439 324 703


Adele Wilde
Counsellor and Psychotherapist

Mt Lawley Counselling Centre
13 Alvan Street
Mt Lawley (Perth), WA 6050

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