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Health & Fitness

Simply moving houses can trigger depression

A man in the process of moving houses. FILE
A man in the process of moving houses. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Qn. “Can a residential location trigger depression? I recently moved to a new home in an upmarket area but I feel rather depressed. I don’t seem to find a reason for this”

You have asked a most interesting question, which I will, with your permission rephrase. Are there some life events in a person’s life (positive or negative) that could lead to stress and or depression, as in your case?

The answer is a most emphatic yes, and indeed, the act of moving to a new house is one such event. So stressful was the fact of relocation that among the Agikuyu people, there was a full ceremony involving the death (sacrifice) of a goat when a person moved from one location to another!

It is possible that the ceremony in the olden days was intended to both welcome the new resident and also to get him to know those neighbours he will now have to live with.

We have seen people who have moved from one part of the City to the leafy suburbs and who, like you have experienced a measure of isolation. Some have complained that their new neighbours seem to look down upon them in particular when they learn that they have just moved in from the other side of the city.

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The fact that moving up to the leafy suburbs is evidence of hard and focused work is not, in these cases taken account of. Some people have complained that in the leafy suburbs, it is not easy for people to get to know each other and the children seem to have great difficulties getting to know their new neighbours. Another challenge that could lead one to feel low in spirits is finding transport, to and from work. In short, moving from one home to another is sometimes met with great happiness on account of upward mobility, but it can also be a time of great anxiety.

So the simple answer to your question is that moving to a new residential location can trigger depression.

We recently saw a man who had moved from house to house several times in two years. From the first house, he moved from the estate because a neighbour was “looking at his wife badly, as though he wanted her”. A few months later he moved from the next house because the neighbour had a listening device and could tell what was going on in his house. Nobody else in the house was aware of any such evidence.

Talking in whispers in his house only encouraged the neighbour to buy more sophisticated listening gear. Life in that house was not tolerable for him. When his wife and children doubted him in this regard, he beat them to silence!

At the next house, there were radio waves emanating from the neighbour’s TV. These waves, the man said, were interfering with his thoughts and also that this neighbour was inserting his ideas into his head. He felt controlled by his neighbour. His life was full of fear and anxiety.

Life was becoming intolerable for his wife and children. When he told them that he could hear people talking about him; they concluded that something was possibly wrong with the man. They pointed out that they could not hear the voices talking about him, and also reminded him of those times he had made them move to new houses for no reason!

When he fell into a ditch running away from the voices, he broke his arm. We saw him at the request of the surgeon who had attended to his arm and who was fascinated by the story he told!

The diagnosis was as simple as it was clear. This man was suffering from a serious mental illness called Schizophrenia. The paranoia was in clear evidence as he moved from one estate to another. The auditory hallucinations (hearing of voices that were not there for others to hear) is a clear symptom of the condition. Thinking that thoughts were being controlled was another clear sign of Schizophrenia.

This is a rather extreme example of a mental illness leading to frequent moves in homes.

So, moving house can be for many different reasons, and in some instances can of itself lead to the kind of depression you now have.

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