Immigrating to a New Country Can Cause Psychological Problems

Immigrating is a really hard process that can affect you both physically and emotionally. Ulysses Syndrome is a disorder that includes the signs and symptoms present in migrants.
Immigrating to a New Country Can Cause Psychological Problems
Bernardo Peña Herrera

Written and verified by the psychologist Bernardo Peña Herrera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Man has immigrated to new places since time immemorial. Indeed, throughout history migrants have embarked toward the unknown in search of a better life. However, current studies suggest that there’s a higher incidence of mental illness among migrants. One such illness is Ulysses Syndrome.

Although migratory processes have changed a great deal over time, the reasons for which people immigrate remain the same. Furthermore, they usually leave a deep mark on the person concerned.

Ulysses Syndrome

Man with Ulysses syndrome

Today, different studies have demonstrated that people who immigrate present high levels of stress due to the various requirements for residing in a foreign country. Those who migrate illegally suffer the most stress levels, for obvious reasons.

This led Joseba Achótegui, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Barcelona (Spain) to name the effect as Ulysses syndrome or, in scientific terms, Immigrant Syndrome of Chronic and Multiple Stress. This author talks about the negative aspects of migration, which include the process called migratory grief. In fact,  in these cases, it seems that something really ‘dies’ in the traveler’s soul.

What causes this kind of stress?

There are four aspects that increase migratory stress and worsen the mental health of people who settle in another country:

All of these factors hit many migrants extremely hard. They’re also directly related to leaving their families and loved ones behind, feelings of nostalgia, lack of possibilities, changes in habits and culture, and ignorance about their new way of life.

Main symptoms of Ulysses Syndrome

People with this syndrome usually experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Anguish.
  • Guilt. This generally surrounds worry about the loved ones they’ve left behind.
  • Nervousness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Excessive worry. This makes it difficult for them to make correct decisions.
  • Behavioral inhibition.
  • Feelings of isolation.
  • Strong feelings of loneliness and helplessness.
  • Physical and mental fatigue.
  • Weight gain or loss.
  • Lack of concentration.

Advice for immigrating to a new country

Woman changing her perspective while looking at the computer

To reduce the effects of this unpleasant syndrome, if you’re considering immigrating to a new country, you should:

  • Find out in advance about the conditions of your trip. For example, how long it’ll take, the distance, the means of transport, etc.
  • Get to know the culture into which you must integrate. For instance, language, customs, laws, clothing, etc.
  • Find out about the main institutions of the country.
  • Find out where you should go to carry out the appropriate administrative procedures. For example, visas, registration, etc.
  • If possible, visit the country beforehand to find out where you’re going.
  • Contact other people residing in that country.
  • Be clear about where you’re going to live and what documents you’ll need to rent, register for electricity, water, internet, etc.

In light of this, if you’re planning to immigrate to a new country in search of fresh opportunities and a better quality of life, it’s essential that you have a strong conviction and strength of will. Furthermore, you must be willing to always look forward. Keep in mind that those who love you will be proud that you’ve made such an important decision and that if things don’t go as planned, they’ll continue to support you unconditionally.

It might interest you...
Cross-Cultural Psychology: What it is and why it’s so Important?
Exploring your mind
Read it in Exploring your mind
Cross-Cultural Psychology: What it is and why it’s so Important?

In this article, you can learn what cross-cultural psychology is. Furthermore, how it can be applied in clinical psychological practice.




The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.