Is traveling a short-term fix?
Many people turn to traveling as a type of “fix” or solution to forget about the sadness and depression they may feel from their day to day life. Major Depressive Disorder, also known as Clinical Depression, is a mental health disorder that requires treatment from a medical professional in order for someone to feel a type of sustainable relief from what they’re feeling.
Traveling is often seen as a type of escape from a regular lifestyle or routine which lures in travelers to seek out their fantasy in exploration and new adventures. In turn, traveling will also push underlying issues aside without getting the proper help.
Michael Wheaton is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Barnard College and is a licensed psychologist in New York State where he teaches classes in abnormal psychology and clinical psychology. His research focuses on the psychopathology and treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and OCD-related disorders, with an emphasis on behavioral therapy.
Wheaton explained that people who are traveling in order to seek therapeutic relief from their depression are not finding a sustainable way of treatment by pursuing this temporary method of relief.
“Traveling can make a person feel better for a short period of time, it’s like putting a band aid over an issue. Traveling is a short-term fix.”
While traveling is a fun and exciting experience, it’s not a medical treatment or a psychological therapy that will work on the medical challenges that depression brings to people suffering from it.
“People have that fantasy of getting away from the troubles of their daily lives but when they come back home their same problems are still there. The trip can improve people’s moods but is not treating the underlying issues.”
In people that have Major Depressive Disorder, there is an effective treatment approach called Behavioral Activation. Wheaton explained that this type of psychotherapy and routine regulation focuses on getting people to be active in ways that are sustainable and rewarding. This approach allows people to find ways to stay in and maintain a steady mood.
“This treatment is when you get a reward from the environment you’re in. For example, people being more active, going for walks or situating themselves in a space where they can be more social. It’s effective in helping people breaking out of patterns of lack of activity.”
Wheaton does not recommend people seek help for their depression by going on a vacation or traveling because it will not resolve the underlying issues they have from the mental disorder.
“It may be fine and get a boost in your mood, but it won’t be all better when you get back. It is better to see a clinical therapist or get medication help to work on the underlying issues.”