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’ve been “Sick in Seattle” for my whole life. So…here’s MY life. I get up in the dark, spend an hour of driving to my office 12 miles away. TWELVE MILES…do the math…a two hour commute for a round trip of 24 miles. So the start of my day is driving an hour in the dark. The end of my day is driving home in the dark. I have an “isolated” office because most of us are in the office part time to do paperwork and then out driving again. So, I rarely see my co-workers. Heaven-Forbid I say “Hello” to another person working in my building because they look at me like I’m absolutely crazy. Mentally ill people all around and homeless people shooting up in our parking garage at work. I’ve been told by my bosses if I see someone using drugs to stay in my car when I get to work and call 911. My bf works nights so I’m home alone with no TV reception because the antenna doesn’t work in the rain. I have zero energy for 9 months out of the year. I got off work yesterday it was sunny I was on top of the world, the rain came in and clouds and I was immediately rendered immobile I’m laying on the couch under an electric blanket. I use a sad light in the mornings and I have to take antidepressants to live in this city. I feel like depression is ruining my life and my career. Every weekend I try to get out and ride my bike for exercise but it’s so rainy I can’t even force myself out of the house. Yes, it’s amazing in the summer and such a beautiful city surrounded by mountains it’s truly stunning. I am so done with my life here I feel like I just wasted more than half a century of living in the “dumps”. The Seattle freeze is real people please don’t move here if you have depression it sucks the life out of you…there are a few that thrive here or seem to anyway. I’m so over this dank, dark Black Hole called Seattle. Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Fatigue, Anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder and Brain Fog are my symptoms… none of which I feel in the spring and summer time. And yes I take vitamins and supplements and 10,000 i.u’s of vitamin D…it helps. Signed, Sick-of-Seattle but have loved ones here so I’m stuck.

  2. And let me tell you: after living in the PNW for a while the behavior of the people here starts to affect your personality.

  3. Seattle is beautiful, and summers can be nice if the fog and clouds burn off by noon. Summer of 2013 it was so cloudy every morning and you didn’t see the sunlight until afternoon most days. The three other seasons are usually bad because there are clouds completely covering the sky all day. One year we did not see the sun for literally a month! Yes rain is more of a drizzle or mist but the fact it stays so long is the problem. I never thought of myself as someone who gets sad or depressed but after so long, you need a change. Beautiful at times but not enough for those who need sun. The schools unfortunately are terrible unless you can afford private or homeschool. Have to get far out of the city for better education for little ones. There is entitlement infiltrated everywhere and unfortunately this is only increasing in our entire country. The younger people aren’t being taught to work hard and do a good job for what you have and they are loosing work ethic. Just left after living there for over 25 years and have never been happier. If you’re not a liberal you won’t fit in and most I’ve tried to talk to are very closed minded if you try to speak your view. I am so happy to be out of Seattle! Good luck!

  4. Amy, you’re a douche. An ignorant douche.

    I spent time in Seattle in 2001. The people were friendly. Technology hadn’t consumed the lives of everyone at that time.
    The “Seattle Freeze” is national in 2016. Technological advances have made it such. People would rather meet via online instead of traditional ways. People would rather stare at their phones than interact with others. It’s so bad that people refuse to answer their cell phones. They’d rather be texted. That’s the world we live in now. We are the ‘Loner Society.’ The only way to reset values is catastrophe. Sadly, that’s how simple human beings are. It’ll take a national ass kicking to straighten people’s attitudes out. History proves this to be true.

    Take care, folks!

  5. I’ve never posted on a forum but, after a recent experience with a Seattleite, I feel very compelled to.

    I have never been to Seattle or Washington or even anywhere in the PNW. I’m from Michigan and have visited nearly all of the 50 states accept this corner of the country. I still plan to get to Oregon and Washington at some point in the next couple of years to enjoy its beauty but I don’t think I will ever choose to live there.

    Recently, I dated a young man from Washington who was attending a university in Michigan and it was the most bizarre relational experience of my life. Not because he was odd (though he was) but because he sincerely believed his oddness was the norm and that his worldview was predominant everywhere.

    As I read through some of the comments on this page, I am surprised to find that he may actually be the norm among his own people. He seemed to live very much in his own mind, preferred isolation, and he had a superficial liberal agenda. I say “superficial” because he didn’t actually seem to recognize that while he spoke as though he were a feminist, unprejudiced, humanistic, and naturalistic, I actually discovered that he was very misogynistic, prejudiced, absolutely inconsiderate and uncaring toward human individuals, and tried to induce spiritual experiences by using hallucinative drugs. I was so shocked! (Naturally I do not assume all Washington natives are drug addicts). He donned a facade that made him seem friendly, warm, caring, and open-minded but then (as one commenter has said of Seattleites) he just “flacked out” and attacked me in an extremely high-minded fashion.

    Honestly, I assumed that he was abnormal and that his narcissism was unique even in the PNW, but now I’m not sure. It seems that many individuals on this thread have gone to Seattle only to find similar types of people. While I’m certain that his personality is unique and some of his particular quirks are also unique, it seems that his falsity and high-mindedness are not. He definitely exuded intense pride and the idea that his people are the only people. This, to me, was his predominant flaw; especially since he so vehemently espoused open-mindedness. I found him to be the most close-minded individual I have ever met. And, honestly, I wouldn’t even say he was truly a liberal. I know a lot of liberals who genuinely believe that women, gays, and people of other races or cultures should be treated with respect and their beliefs are not superficial or surfacey. They are sincere!

    I don’t say all of this because I was burned by this young man or anything like that. In truth, I thought he was a beautiful person until he flipped a switch and got very strange–and I think drug use (including pot, of course) are largely to blame for this. But it seems that most of his “beauty” was a carefully (or culturally) crafted facade and I feel rather sorry for him as I do for anyone who has a closed mind. These people keep to themselves and miss out on all that the world has to offer with its many cultural differences, beliefs, practices, etc. It is a form of tribalism that excludes and ostracizes other tribes. I find that the most difficult people to be in relationship with are those who preach inclusion but actually practicing exclusion. This is what my young man was like and, according to him, his WA people are the same. (Amy kinda proves that point).

    But I can’t speak for Seattle as a city–I’m sure it’s lovely. I love the ocean and would like to visit WA someday. However, if what a lot of people are saying on this thread is true, then my young man is not unique in WA–he may even be the norm–and I would prefer to live somewhere where people are friendly, truly open, and not surfacey. I’m actually leaving Michigan because, while the people are pretty friendly here, it can be a bit insular as well, the winters too long, and the economy defunct. I’m ready to try a new place!

    I’ve done my research and decided to live near my sister in Texas. Nowhere is perfect but I’ve been to Texas many times and can honestly say that you can’t beat Texas friendly. And, while Texas has a bit of a conservative agenda, I’ve always found Texans to be open-minded and less judgmental than my WA man. And, of course, there’s Austin! I think I will eventually end up in this gem of a laid-back, open-minded city. So, for now, WA remains a place I will visit but not likely a place I will live.

    Sorry Seattle! Don’t hate you, just want better peeps!

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