Depression In Your 20s
Nowadays we are met with constant challenges and difficulties at even earlier ages than before. Whereas in the past the world moved a slower pace, today in our technologically advanced world things happen faster than ever.
This isn’t only true about computers and phones; it seems to be true of mood phases as well. Whereas the most common age to have a major depressive episode used to be in the 40s or 50s, it’s now closer to the 20s.
The onset of depression has been getting earlier for many years now. Today it’s not uncommon to meet someone who has suffered from an episode of depression in his or her early 20s. As a matter of fact, while about 9% of the American adult population suffers from depression, that number is closer to 11% among people ages 18 to 24.
Early On-Set Of Depression
There are quite a number of reasons why 20-somethings are now experiencing depression earlier than ever. People are experiencing more and more things that contribute to depression each year. One of those key issues is loss. The period between 18 and 29 is filled with potential losses: breaking up with a significant other, losing friends, losing a job, failing school or not getting into an academic program, and realizing our dream career plans just might not work out. The 20s are also a time of uncertainty, which can leave people feeling powerless to change their lives.
In addition to different life events and circumstances, there are also a number of internal, biological factors that play into depression. In the last few years, scientists have noted that the frontal lobe (the part of the brain responsible for planning and reasoning) doesn’t completely develop until the mid-20s. This means 20-somethings are faced with making some huge decisions (where to live, what career to pursue, whether to propose) when they aren’t yet at their full cognitive capacity, which can cause feelings of anxiety, and possibly even depression.
Some lifestyle choices may also have an effect on depression, such as particular eating or sleeping patterns. In some cases, 20-somethings might not realize certain lifestyle factors may contribute to depressive symptoms. Binge drinking tends to be most common and intense in people ages 18 to 24, and alcohol use disorders are closely linked to depression.
Similarly, Dr. Cameron Johnson, a psychiatrist at Loma Linda University, notes that the transition from high school to college (and from college to post-grad life) is often marked by changes in sleep schedules, which may also cause some mental health issues.
Even if someone struggles with depression during this period, there is little evidence to suggest that these feelings will continue throughout the rest of life, especially if they are addressed effectively. For those young people who are looking for help, there are a lot of things that can be done.
Tips On How To Deal With Depression
Reach Out: The first and most important thing that someone can do is to reach out to close friends and family. Trying to deal with depressive feelings along can be a difficult process. Involving those whom one is closest to is often a key indicator for success.
Get Healthy: Being heavier has been associated with higher rates of depression, and inversely, exercise has shown to help in the fight against it. Additionally, having a good sleep pattern helps the body in general and also impacts depression as well.
Seek Professional Help: Finally the last step is to seek out professional help. Working with a psychotherapist can be helpful for figuring out and taking steps to cope with what triggered the depressive symptoms in the first place. While therapy is sometimes the last step to successfully treating depression for some, antidepressants may be for others.
Antidepressant medications aren’t appropriate in every situation, they can be helpful in cases where there’s a family history of depression. A doctor or mental health practitioner can help figure out the best treatment plan for an individual.
Ultimately, in spite of the pain it causes, depression can actually be a useful signal that something in our lives needs to change. That said, it’s extremely important to address depression in some way, instead of just putting up with it. Though it might be difficult to admit we’re depressed, there are people, resources, and action steps we can take that will help us live healthy, happy lives long after our 20s are over.
Blog Post By: Jared Friedman