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Christopher A Thurber, PhD, ABPP
Edward Walton, MD
Section Editor
Marilyn Augustyn, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


Homesickness is the distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents [1]. It is characterized by acute longing and preoccupying thoughts of home.

Almost all children, adolescents, and adults experience some degree of homesickness when they are apart from familiar people and environments. In some individuals, the subjective distress and level of impairment related to this separation may be extreme.

Primary care providers can help families understand the etiology of homesickness, identify which children are at risk, and develop strategies for prevention and/or treatment. An overview of homesickness, including techniques for prevention with planned separations, such as summer camp and university study, and treatment strategies for unanticipated or traumatic separations, such as hospitalization, will be presented below.


Homesickness is defined as the distress and functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents [1]. Severe homesickness is classified as an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood according to the American Psychiatric Association taxonomy (diagnostic code 309.28) [2,3].

Homesickness is characterized by recurrent cognitions focused on home (eg, parents, house, loved ones, home cooking, family pet); it is always precipitated by an actual or anticipated separation from home. These features distinguish homesickness from other adjustment disorders, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders, as well as from the separation anxiety felt by children when caregivers leave home (eg, because of divorce, military service, etc) [4,5].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: May 15, 2017.
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