Thanks for posting, I think this is a very important topic. I’ve also written an article on this subject, soon to be published, so I’ll post it when it’s up.
I’m a mental health blogger and ‘digital nomad’ (although I prefer to say remote worker since I knew I wanted to base myself in Chiang Mai). Anyway, I am quite passionate about the subject and feel it needs to be discussed to add some more realism to the DN lifestyle, which too often I feel is over-glamorized. The mental health aspect should not be overlooked or downplayed.
If someone has mental health issues, or is vulnerable to them, or even if they’ve never experienced them before, the combination of freelancing/working remotely and moving abroad can end up being an influencing factor in a depressive episode, for example.
Freelancing can be extremely stressful at times and this stress — if it becomes chronic — can be a risk factor for depression and anxiety. In addition, when you’re working remotely, it’s pretty common to spend long stretches of time in isolation, which is a well-known risk factor for depression.
The huge upheaval involved in moving abroad is also stressful and anyone who has experienced, or experiences mental health issues, should be aware of this.
Then there are issues to do with overworking, lack of deep friendships, family, a support network, burn out from travelling, poor diet, lack of sleep, etc. Clearly, you can experience these things back in your home country, but they are more common for DNs. And I know from personal experience how these factors can impact my mental health.
I wouldn’t say travelling, moving abroad and working online will or will not improve/negatively affect your mental health, or to what extent. I can only say that my lifestyle has improved in many ways, but it has also presented big challenges to my well-being.
I never moved abroad to ‘fix’ personal issues I had. I have travelled before to ‘escape’ and it doesn’t work. Wherever you go, there you are. So I hope no one pursues this lifestyle solely as an attempt to stop being depressed, or whatever it may be; at least, not without the understanding of what you need to take care of yourself, and the knowledge of the risks involved.