Despite its name, homesickness is not a sickness. "It stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security," said clinical psychologist Josh Klapow to CNN Health. When routines and familiar surroundings and faces are replaced by new activities, scenery and people, homesickness often results. It can happen to anyone at any age, though it might be easier for adults to recognise and handle. One cannot prevent the feelings of loneliness and nostalgia characteristic of homesickness altogether, but understanding the signs and symptoms might help control their intensity.
When your comfort zone is abandoned, negative emotions can surge. Fortunately, homesickness tends to be mild, says kidshealth.org, but recognising that the cause of negative emotions is the result of a transition instead of the new situation itself is crucial in adjusting your outlook and in gaining perspective. Missing home and realising that life goes on without your presence can lead to feelings of loss, lethargy and a lack of motivation. It is common to fall short when dealing with responsibilities and work, and you might begin to blame the circumstances or feel isolated from the new pace of life.
Although less common, physical symptoms of homesickness can include nausea and sleep disturbances, according to Earlham College. Others might experience stomachaches or headaches. According to a paper published in "Pediatrics," the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 6 per cent and 9 per cent of surveyed children report homesickness associated with severe symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Physical symptoms of depression are wide-ranging and can include aching limbs and joints, digestion problems, fatigue, and changes in appetite. Panic attacks are a common sign of anxiety and are accompanied by asthma-like symptoms of breathlessness, heart palpitations and sweating. Pain in the heart area is another sign of anxiety.
Behavioural symptoms are useful in identifying others who might be suffering from this adjustment disorder. Signs vary widely but include social withdrawal or an unwillingness to engage in and commit to social events. Homesickness is often accompanied by speaking about home and comparing the new situation with the old, familiar surroundings. An overeagerness to interact with people back home or speaking about plans to travel there, along with unreasonable levels of irritability, a refusal to eat and seemingly little need for sleep can occur. In a work or college context, laziness within the first few weeks can be a manifestation of the lethargy associated with homesickness.
- CNN Health: Homesickness isn't really about 'home'
- TeensHealth: Homesickness
- Earlham College: Feeling Homesick?
- Paediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: Preventing and Treating Homesickness
- The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: The Link Between Depression and Physical Symptoms
- Livingwithanxiety.com, The Web's Best Anxiety Resource: Physical Symptoms of Anxiety- Panic