Behavioral Health Consultant, Trainer and EAP Manager

Seattle, Washington

Is Seattle Depressing?

Question:

I moved to Seattle to renew my life, yet I’ve been as depressed as ever. Shouldn’t I be less vulnerable in a beautiful place like this?

Answer:

I encounter people in this situation regularly. Seattle is a city of transplants, and the adjustment is not always quick or easy. Here are several reasons we could designate a special “Seattle depression” for newcomers in the the Emerald City.

First of all, moving sucks. You may have escaped a messy family situation and a doomed marriage, a rotten job and hell-hole physical setting, but you’ve come to a place where you don’t know many people. Isolation correlates with depression. Often, being with irritating people who you know may still better for your mood than being alone. Seattle has a reputation as a place where people are generally insular and hard to get to know. Whether or not the reputation is deserved your feeling blue and insecure will not help your efforts to integrate.

But I’m an introvert, you may say. People are a pain, and I like to be alone! Just the same, being human, you have tribalism in your genes. You don’t have to change you personal nature, but you might benefit by adjusting your patterns of affilliation.

Besides the isolation that comes with moving, you have disrupted your usual routines. Routine is good for your mood, plain and simple. Humdrum activity is still activity. It gives a sense of purpose it keeps you in motion and it lends structure to your day, whereas now that structure may be hard to come by.

The reduced light that comes with our long winters is undeniably a factor in depression, but an overblown one in my opinion. The problem with winter is not just the reduced sunlight but the fact that we don’t move around as much. Physical activity is good medicine for depression and it just doesn’t come as easily in the Seattle winter.  If you get a boost from taking walks in the summer, get a good parka and don’t let the went winter stop you.

All the disruption, lack of routine, reduced activity, seperation and isolation contributes to a sense of anomie – a breakdown in the usual social norms and standards that give us a sense of regulation, stability and belonging. Even a slight sense of dysregulation and weakened structure adds to anxiety.

As I have mentioned several times before, depressed people ruminate to try to find answers. Ruminating is a vortex. It gives the allusion that we are seeking answers when in fact we’re moving farther from solutions.

You can place all blame the nature of the city if you wish.  But if depression is the fault of this locale, we would have a measurably higher rate of depression.  We don’t.  Incidentally, the only city with a measurably higher rate of suicide is Los Vegas.

So what is to be done? As Mark Twain stated, “It takes a heap of livin’ to make a house a home”. You may need a plan to direct your activity more productively, to find more connection, gratification and pleasure, and tune your thinking to be less depressive. Then, you can begin feeling like you belong, perhaps even like it would be depressing to leave. CBT or cognitive-behavioral therapy is a practical way to do this.

66 thoughts on “Is Seattle Depressing?”

  1. I’m a native Californian. Been here 7 months and can’t stand the weather. We are going to be leaving by the end of our 6 month lease. My husband got a job at Amazon but that won’t keep us here.

    The people I’ve met have been really nice. Perhaps not nice enough to form a real friendship but I feel very isolated and depressed. Everyone says get out in the rain. That is hard to do and I feel more depressed sloshing around in it so I stay inside.

    I am someone that needs sun. I could live in the desert. I cannot live here. There is a weird vibe here. Perhaps it’s the outdoorsy, open air vibe of CA that I love so much. I’ve never spent so much time indoors alone as I have these past 7 months!

  2. Gross, disturbing city, and I’m from Southern CA, which can be gross and disturbing, too. Living here feels like being held captive in a storage container by a hoarding psychopath still sporting glasses and a hairstyle and a puffer vest from 1983.

  3. Seattle is a beautiful city, but a shitty one when it comes to culture, diversity and pulse. I’ve met many nice people, but shitty ones as well. The shittiest ones being those 40+ years old with money and the transplants that have been here 3 or more years. The place is downright depressing. Weirdest vibe I’ve ever experienced in a city. I love the rain. Hate the darkness with a passion. This city changes people. I’m glad to have experience living here. But once I leave will never return.

  4. Reading these posts, It makes me reevaluate the time I have spent in Seattle, seeing relatives there. I’ve discovered there are certain times of the year that are best to visit. From my experience, June is the best time, and September is okay. December is dreary and depressing there in particular; however, bringing a light box one year, did help and I arranged my visit, to coincide with two sunny days, and it worked, but the last two days were drab, dark grey skies starting at early as 1 or 2 p.m. I’ve made a decision not to relocate to the PNW. I live in Wyoming.

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