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 was born and raised in Seattle, and I absolutely love it here, I will never move. Reading all the negative comments actually made me happy because we are tired of newcomers. So I’m glad you guys were miserable and now you’re leaving. Yay!!! Looks like “The Seattle Freeze” did it’s job. So to the guy who was wondering why hardly any natives are on here defending it – I’m sure many of them don’t want to. 🙂

  2. The Seattle suicide rate is much lower than Las Vegas, Denver, Albuquerque, Tucson, Colorado Springs, Miami, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Portland, Las Vegas, Sacramento, and other sunny locations. People who move there are suicidal probably had issues to begin with. A ranking of high suicide cities is published on the internet and elsewhere, Seattle is not even in the top twenty? So why do selected sunny places have a higher suicide rate?

    Suicide is a serious issue. Poking fun at Seattle thinking that it has the universe’s highest suicide rate is deceitful, uninformed, and laughable on many levels. People should stop saying “I hear that” and instead learn the facts.

  3. So here is my main gripe with Seattle. Seattleites strive to make a point whether it be about recycling, being hipster, liberalist or just an individual. But that’s all it is just to make a point. It’s fake, it’s as if this identity they want people to perceive them as is something they constantly try to live up to. I moved a year ago to start a new chapter in life. I wanted to gain more freedom and independence from my family. I have visited the place a few times and loved the outdoors and scenery. I failed to realize that the times I went were during the summer so having spent two years there I got the full experience of all the seasons.
    Already being a very social person, I pushed myself even more to try and reach out to people. I thought for a second maybe it’s something with me. But clearly after all these years of making tons of friends, I wasn’t the problem. It was definitely the “SEATTLE FREEZE”. I tried my hardest to love the place, really. The two years I lived there I have not made friends with one neighbor. I lived in an apartment complex and frequently saw people go in and out of their studios. I even struck up conversation with one guy who I thought would be a good friend. But that turned out to never happen. I’ve met people through a few people I know here and had made plans to meet for drinks or hangout and things would fall through. I’m the type to give people the benefit of the doubt and make up excuses for them. So these weren’t just a one time thing. I’ve given people several chances to make contact and made myself available.
    I chose to live in a part of the city that would be more open and be more social. This was Capital Hill. Well this place just swarmed with a bunch of introverts and people who were as cold as a winter’s day. I guess a lot of it has to do with the Nordic temperatures and personalities. People don’t want to sit and chat with you for hours in the street when it’s wet and 50 degrees outside. Even at grocery stores and markets, to strike up a casual conversation with the cashier and someone behind, people would have a blank stare and think you were some weirdo. Some even frightened by the fact that you would strike up any conversation out of the blue.
    Well I grew up mostly on coastal cities where there are many different cultures and different types of people. So I was always used to strangers commenting on your car, attire, or even the experiment you were putting together for dinner at Trader Joes. I would say I am a very outgoing person and I’ve tried everything from church groups, parties, social media and work places to make good friends or even date. Being African American and gay it was extremely hard to fit into a place that was already closed minded and not as “liberal” as the rest of US says it is.
    I’ve had a few things happen to me in Seattle, that have never happen in the most ‘segregated’ of communities and towns elsewhere. For example running down the street and someone locking their doors as you run past them. Or people being frightened when you talk to them just down right appalling. I mean we are in the 21st century here people wake up!!!
    So this is just the tip of the iceberg, I haven’t even begun to disclose part of my experience living here. Within the gay community there is a myriad of prejudices and introverts in Seattle. People chatting with me on social media and saying oh well I really don’t date black guys sorry you aren’t my type.
    Maybe my mind set would have changed about the place if I had met someone either a good friendship or perhaps a romantic partner.

    One thing I have learned though is a lot about myself after moving from there. I’ve learned that I yearn for social connectivity as we all do and that no matter the circumstances I still managed to not fall too deep into depression. I have met a few friends out there but mostly all from work. It’s a shame because the place is extremely beautiful and the atmosphere is like an old memory that’s hard to place. Seattle will always have a peace of my heart.

  4. We moved to Seattle this year from Tennessee and are already thinking about leaving. However, while I have found the people here to be very reticent and standoff-ish, I haven’t experienced much outright rudeness the way most previous comments described. Coming from the Southeast, it is hard to get used to the fact that people won’t hold open doors or apologize if they bump into you, but it seems more thoughtless than intentional. The area where we lived in Tennessee had a lot of migration from the Northeast, and I found those people tended to be much more intentionally rude. And in the Southeast, we like to say we never meet a stranger, so here it is different when people seem to look past you instead of acknowledging you. Funny story, we were hiking on a deserted trail, but eventually passed another hiker. We said hello, and the poor person looked like he thought we were going to try to rob him or something and hurried past without replying.

    One striking thing, coming from the Bible Belt, is the lack of churches. Also, the Southeast is full of history everywhere you turn, and I miss that, although since this area wasn’t settled until much later naturally there won’t be as much history here. The weather is really our major issue. We knew beforehand that there would be dreary weather most of the year, but expecting it and experiencing it have been two different things. I don’t think I can get used to it. I complained about the humid summers in the Southeast and looked forward to what we expected to be nice summers here, but the dramatic temperature swings from 50’s in the morning to 80’s or even 90’s all in one day have caused a lot of respiratory problems for me. So I think we will stay here for a few years and probably move back.

Leave a Comment