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Stress and Anxiety When Relocating: What You Need to Know

Updated: Jan 16, 2018

Relocating and moving countries is an understandably stressful time for all involved. There is no doubt going to be some challenges during a period of adjustment and some difficulties with settling in, especially with a new baby. However it can be difficult for people to know whether what they are experiencing is a normal amount stress and anxiety or whether there may be something more serious going on that requires them to seek help and treatment. During this period of adjustment people are at risk of developing a more severe form of stress known as an adjustment disorder or a more severe form of anxiety known as an anxiety disorder.

Adjustment Disorders

Adjustment disorders occur at times of major change and result from difficulty adjusting to a new way of life. It is classified as a disorder when you experience more stress than would normally be expected or lasts for longer then expected and causes significant problems in your normal daily functioning and relationships. Adjustment disorders can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression as it affects the way you think and feel about yourself and your environment. Consequently this can affect your behaviour and actions. Usually these stressors are temporary and if needed therapy can help you learn to cope with them.

Anxiety Disorders

Everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time, for example when doing presentations, facing major life changes or going through financial difficulty. Fear and anxiety are also closely related emotions, but they are distinct from each other. Fear is caused by the anticipation and awareness of a specific danger or threat, while anxiety is often without a single specific cause. While some anxiety is a part of normal life, people with an anxiety disorder frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry about everyday situations that interfere with normal daily living and are difficult to control. It can be difficult to tell when your anxiety crosses that line between being normal or a disorder.

There many different types of anxiety disorders. These include generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), specific phobias and separation anxiety disorder. It can also involve panic attacks, which are episodes of sudden intense anxiety and fear with racing heart, rapid breathing, sweating and shaking.

Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense

  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom

  • Having an increased heart rate

  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Feeling weak or tired

  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry

  • Having trouble sleeping

  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

  • Having difficulty controlling worry

  • Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety

Next steps

If you feel that your stress or anxiety may be excessive or affecting your life and ability to settle in, then make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss your concerns. Anxiety can also be linked to some health problems that need be excluded. If needed, treatment options include therapy and medication. These can be discussed further to establish the best approach for each individual.

Dr Kaye McMullan is an Australian trained Doctor based at IMC Katong. Please call 6342 4440 to make an appointment or visit

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