Thursday, November 11, 2010

Travel PTSD - When Home is not Home Anymore

Disclaimer: I am no expert in PTSD. Travel PTSD is by no means making fun of the very serious and real issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The following excerpt is taken from the Post Deployment Health Assessment from the US Department of Defence’s questionnaire screening for PTSD and if you answer yes to any of these four questions, you are at risk of suffering from PTSD. 

Have you ever had any experience that was so frightening, horrible, or upsetting that, in the past month, you:

  • Have had any nightmares about it or thought about it when you did not want to 
  • Tried hard not to think about it or went out of your way to avoid situations that remind you of it. 
  • Were constantly on guard, watchful or easily startled
  • Felt numb or detached from others, activities or your surroundings

You are at risk of suffering from acute PTSD if you experience this within 4 days of returning and if it lasts for less than a month. You are at risk of suffering from chronic PTSD if the signs last longer than a month. Sometimes the onset of symptoms can be delayed until years later. 

Thanks to Stephanie for letting me pick her brains about PTSD - she is a grad student in social work that is studying Veteran Affairs.

Defining Travel PTSD

Travel PTSD is like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but When Returning from Travelling

Symptoms include:

•    Reverse Homesickness - missing people and places from abroad
•    Inability to focus on everyday tasks/dreams about travelling
•    Boredom, insecurity, uncertainty and frustration
•    Feelings of alienation or withdrawal
•    Need for excessive sleep

Travel PTSD and the Reverse Culture Shock of Returning Home

Travel PTSD is similar to Reverse Culture Shock and Transition Shock. Travel PTSD is the phenomenon of returning to one's home country and culture after travelling – unlike Culture Shock, most do not anticipate feeling like a foreigner in their own home. 

However, Travel PTSD should be expected, if you have made cultural adjustments while travelling, you will have to readjust once you return. 

Just as a soldier changes his camouflage to adapt to his surroundings, so a person must be prepared to change when returning home or stand out like Snooki’s Poof on the Jersey Shore.

Travel PTSD is the awareness of not blending in to your home country and culture on your return, and this is especially a risk if you have been living abroad for an extended period. Many people will not show the slightest bit of interest in the life changing journey or time abroad you have just returned from. 

Especially if you drop your travel stories into too many conversations saying things like “When i was in the Arctic Circle...” as not everyone has the same opportunities and some people get quite jealous. 

How to Overcome Travel PTSD

  • Plan your next trip.
  • Stay in touch with fellow travellers through social media and share your Travel PTSD experiences.
  • Journal your thoughts and emotions and share your experience through writing contests and photo contests.
  • Stay connected to the world through global news networks and newspapers with an international / global focus for example The Economist and the BBC World are a good place to start.


  1. I love this post :) Not only is the idea of Travel PTSD fantastic, but it's also SO true. Your tips on how to overcome it are quite apt --staying in touch with my friends I made while traveling has been one the best methods for overcoming my travel withdrawls

  2. gah! I'm not even home yet and I already feel it! Crap I need a job!

  3. Great post!

  4. Crisis intervention also helps treat Travel Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since there would be debriefing which lasts for three or four hour’s session, meeting fellow group survivors or those who have same experiences which is conducted by a counselor. It’s a very good thing to consult your clinical psychologists to get a quick help after the trauma.

  5. How do you know it is not that same thing. I argue in some cases, PTSD out of the military, is more difficult to deal with.