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Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty Nest Syndrome: A quick guide on symptoms and treatment

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

In almost every parent’s life, there is a stage when they encourage their children to be grown up and take responsibility as an adult. Situations such as parents sending their child to university in another state or country, or children leaving their home because of work or marriage leave the parents alone. This transitional stage of experiencing loneliness as children move away with feelings of loss, grief, and inability to do things is known as Empty Nest Syndrome. In psychological terms, it is a condition in which both or one parent experience difficulty adjusting when their children leave home. Children have left the nest (home) and now “the nest is empty” therefore the term – empty nest syndrome.

Empty nest syndrome is often found in mothers as their nature is caring and nurturing. With children leaving their homes and starting a new chapter in life without keeping a strong connection with their parents, especially mothers, leads them to empty nest syndrome. Usually, the experience depends on the person’s ability to accept and the willingness to cope with the situation. Mostly, full-time mothers who used to do everything for their children and used to talk to them frequently suffer from this syndrome.

In several instances, fathers also suffer from the same but they do not tend to show or express it. Research studies indicate that some fathers expressed their feelings of being unprepared for the emotional transition that comes with their child leaving home. Often, fathers have a feeling of guilt for missing the chance to be closer to their children when they retired and have a lot of ‘free time’.

woman and girl walking on road surrounded by green grass

What are the symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome?

Parents experiencing Empty Nest Syndrome often question whether or not they have prepared adequately for their child to live independently. Some of the common symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome are:

  • Emotional distress
  • Constant anxiety and fear of the children
  • Incapable of doing the routine activities
  • Feeling hopelessness and uncertainty
  • Insomnia or inability to sleep properly
  • Fear of lack of control over things
  • A loss of purpose in life

The deep grief and loneliness felt by the parents can sometimes aggravate the depression or anxiety primarily experienced by them.

How long does empathy nest syndrome last for?

Usually, people are of the opinion that the empty nest syndrome remains for 2 to 3 years. However, research studies conducted by Peregrine Adventures on 2000 empty nesters reveal that precisely it lasts for 3 months and 14 days on average. In some cases, it may also be as long as a week or a month. The duration depends on the person’s engagements for spending time. Depending upon the severity and attachment with the children, it might also take a year to adjust to the situation.

Empty nest syndrome treatment:

To treat empty nest syndrome it is recommended to not live alone, go on any trip or relatives place with whom you have a good bond. Be connected with people and surroundings in order to not experience loneliness. Mothers who are particularly homemakers can join NGOs and serve society, this will keep their minds engaged during the day.

The next option is to set new goals in life. The parents can utilise their skills to busy their schedule and if the skills can be monetized, they can set goals and have a small business on the side. If they have certain hobbies they can engage themselves in them.

The parents can practise some self-care and focus on the positives of life. They can meditate and exercise. Meditation can also be via praying and doing religious practice.

Even professional help can be suggested. Therapy by a trained professional is one of the best solutions for this. People seeking professional help undergo talk therapies and recreational therapies which help a person to reduce anxiety and sadness.

An individual can create their own circle of people who have the same problem of empty nest syndrome. They can interact with each other, discuss their problems in their new stage of life and help each other.

How Severe empty nest syndrome can be?

Empty nest syndrome is not a clinical condition, it is a syndrome. The severity depends on how fast a person recovers and accepts the changes in life. This can range from mild to severe problems.

This syndrome leads to feelings of grief and excessive worry including loneliness and anxiety. If not cured on time, empty nest syndrome can lead to severe depression and other mental health illnesses. One of the symptoms of this syndrome is emotional distress, which if not controlled on time can further cause psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, and sometimes even schizophrenia.

 It is important for empty nesters to realize that what they are feeling is normal. But it is also important to replace the meaningful experience of parenting with other meaningful experiences in life. The next step should be to have more meaningful and positive experiences by making a list of interests and activities to expand further on.

For any queries on therapies for Empty Nest Syndrome, Self Knowledge Now provides personalized counselling and psychotherapy to lead you to the next positive stage of your life.


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