International Counseling

SvetlaWebMoving to another country can be exciting but really tough. I know that from personal experience as I moved 3 times in the past 15 years to different countries and I had to start everything all over again. Housing, jobs, friends, social circles, commute and everything else that comes with it. Life becomes one long, painful transition.

It doesn’t really even matter if you are moving to a country and you know the language or the people, or you don’t. It’s still difficult and stressful, regardless how exciting it was in the beginning. Children usually adapt quicker, but they also may experience conduct or emotional problems. And these problems and troubles may come from all different sources, sometimes even unexpected:

  1. The culture is completely different and you are undergoing a real “cultural” shock.
  2. You think you knew the language, but when you arrived you are experiencing difficulties understanding the local people and getting around the “local words, expressions and idioms”.
  3. Not only we have to deal with the stress of living home, friends and relatives but we have to find ways to live within a country whose culture, society, and language are so different from our own. Tell me how this may not be a challenge for any human being!
  4. Moving to any foreign country confronts the foreigner with a barrage of unfamiliar social, professional, and interpersonal rules. Sometimes you may be just wondering how to get your point across to others or voice your opinion without appearing aggressive or insecure. Believe me, the accent in these cases doesn’t help at all. I was often told that because of my accent I sound defensive, offensive or aggressive, and none of these sounded nice to me.
  5. You may experience loneliness, or boredom or even depression, all at the same time. Your best friends are far away, the time difference could be enormous and let’s face it- they may not be able to understand your situation at all, because they are “not in your shoes”. You are in many cases on you own.
  6. Anxiety, stress and depression may lead to psychosomatic disorders and symptoms of all kinds. I remember the first time I moved to the USA I started to experience some phantom stomach pain that would come and go as it likes. No medications would help and in fact all doctors said that there is nothing physically wrong with me. However, that pain was excruciating many times, to the point that my colleagues had to call an ambulance. About 8 months later, after I have ‘settled down” that pain disappeared out of the blue. Psychosomatic symptoms may include headaches, lower back pain, insomnia, inability to concentrate, indigestion, high blood pressure, dizziness, chronic colds and other respiratory illnesses, nervousness and irritability, anxiety and…you name it. Physical symptoms may be actually result of emotional trauma. That said, you need a doctor first to make sure your complains does not have any physical origin.
  7. “Behavioral Excesses”, which include, but are not limited to overeating,  sleeping too much or not sleeping enough, cleaning too much, taking too much medication, and drinking excessively are ways of calming the anxiety, loneliness, boredom, insecurity and depression. If you notice that types of behaviors, you may need help before it gets too late.
  8. If you are unable to adjust to or cope with a particular stressor and experience general loss of interest, feelings of hopelessness and crying, mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct, lack of enjoyment, unexplained sadness, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed and these symptoms occur within 3-6 months of moving to another country, you may have an Adjustment disorder. It generally resolves once the individual is able to adapt to the situation, but with some people it may way longer. As with everything though, there are shortcuts that can help you feel better sooner.

When do you need help?

 The answer of this question varies from individual to individual, some people have high tolerance of such disturbances and others have a very low tolerance. However, there are some general rules. The situation is “abnormal” in the cases when your discomfort, physical or emotional, is not acceptable or tolerable any more, when your relationships are negatively affected and you suffer emotionally, mentally or physically. “Abnormal” in this case can be defined by the 4 D’s:

–        Dysfunctional, or causes dysfunction in few areas of your life

–        Deviant, from the generally accepted practices.

–        It causes significant “Distress” in your life.

–        It may cause “Danger”, for yourself or others.

In all cases, even in doubt, it is better to seek help sooner than later. Call for a session over the phone or Skype, I usually offer local phone numbers, depending on the country live in presently. Finally, it always good to stalk to someone who knows how you feel and can offer you tips on how to better deal with the situation.

Svetla Bankova

CTACC, MA in Psychology

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