Can Nostalgia Lead to Clinical Depression?

By Gadit, Amin A. Muhammad | Clinical Psychiatry News, February 2010 | Go to article overview

Can Nostalgia Lead to Clinical Depression?


Gadit, Amin A. Muhammad, Clinical Psychiatry News


By definition, nostalgia is a wistful desire to return in thought or fact to a former time in one's life--to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends. It is a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.

Perhaps this desire explains, in part, the seasonal journeys undertaken by birds of many species. Of course, they are motivated largely by weather and a quest for survival. But like clockwork, these birds return to their original habitats, often after enduring journeys fraught with danger.

We also see this trend among humans, albeit in a different way. The issues are in many ways similar, such as the search for greener pastures and economic uplift, and for better living, education, and employment. Still, the destination often proves alien, and there are many risks involved in migration.

Anthropologists have documented this trend since earlier times, when people used to migrate in large groups. Hence, the phenomenon has always been part of the human experience.

But migration often comes at a huge psychological price. After all, psychologically speaking, people who are born and raised in a particular country develop an attachment to that place, and detachment sometimes leads to emotional turmoil. I've seen this in my practice, and so have my colleagues.

The type of emotional reaction differs, depending on whether the migration is forced or not. But the transition can prove challenging just the same.

Many of our colleagues who originated from developing countries are practicing medicine in places such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. These international physicians left their homes for a myriad of reasons, but often because of the prospects of better training and a better life. …

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