While the core symptoms of depression remain similar across one’s lifetime, teens experience depression differently than young adults might. This is related to different responsibilities, and concepts about the future. Young adults have often developed a greater emotional vocabulary, which can make it easier for them to identify signs that they might be depressed, but it can also make it harder for them to feel like it is possible to change the way that they feel.
Identifying Young Adult Depression
About half of people who have been diagnosed with depression first recognize signs by the time they are 14. By the age of 18, this number is more than 75%. However, it is more common for young adults to reach out for professional help than younger teens. The longer an individual has experienced depression without learning skills to manage the symptoms, the harder it can be to change the patterns they’ve developed to cope.
Many teenagers accept that high school is a difficult time for most of their peers and hold onto hope that their outlook on life will change once they have more freedom to pursue their interests and find people that they relate to outside the bubble of their home or school environment. Young adults who continue to experience depressive episodes may be disappointed that they are still struggling with the same unresolved issues.
Whereas in high school, they may have noticed that their depression affected their academic performance or relationship with their family, the stakes may seem higher as they embark on a field of study or career path they were interested in and suddenly struggle to maintain the passion they once felt. Their family may have shown them unconditional support, but the relationships they build by choice seem to fade away when they struggle to remain present with others.
Why is Depression Prevalent Among Young Adults?
According to Dr. Stuart Goldman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Boston Children’s Hospital, “going off into the world, establishing a clear identity, developing a capacity for intimate relationships, and forming a foundation to build a future career and adult life are all part of the challenges to people in their 20s that could make them vulnerable to depression.”
Common signs of depression in young adults may include:
- Trouble enjoying themselves when spending time with others
- Spending more time alone
- Low energy
- Feeling hopeless about future plans
- Disrupted sleep
- Experimenting with substances
- Weight changes
- Failure to launch
Differences between Teen Depression and Young Adult Depression
- Adults usually describe feeling sad when they’re depressed, but teenagers often describe feeling restless or irritable.
- It may be harder to identify social withdrawal in teenagers, who still live at home and interact with peers in a school setting on a daily basis, compared to young adults who may be more isolated.
- Teen depression is often written off as “normal teen moodiness,” while depression in young adults may be seen as more clinically significant, as their peers have outgrown this hormonal phase.
- By the time they reach young adulthood, individuals have often developed coping mechanisms to mask signs that they are depressed, like being an overachiever or turning to substances to numb their emotions. They are more likely to be referred to a professional for problems they are facing in their personal life, as depression can interfere with work, school, and relationships, than for the underlying symptoms.
- While parents may are more likely to reach out for help if they notice potential signs of depression in their teen, it may take longer for young adults to reach out for help on their own.
How to Empower Depressed Young Adults
Many young adults who have experienced recurrent depressive episodes through adolescence have relied on their parents to motivate them to continue pursuing their goals and to rescue them from their problems that have become overwhelming. While they may have been more withdrawn from their family in high school, they may begin to reach out more to their parents to vent about their day, ask for financial support, or discuss feeling like they need to move home.
At the end of the day, increased parent support doesn’t necessarily help them resolve some of the conflicts of young adulthood that have led to feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. At Foundations Asheville, we help parents shift their role from “managing their kids” to acting as “consultants,” which helps young adults learn that they have the capacity to make decisions on their own.
As a transition program, we provide the structure of a home environment, but our focus is on motivating young adults to explore their passions and career goals. Students create individualized schedules and collaborate with their treatment team to work on goals they’ve created for themselves. Depressed young adults who have felt like they lacked direction in life work on establishing shorter-term goals to help them envision a brighter future and learn to ask for help when they need it.
As young adults who struggle with depression are more emotionally mature, they are better able to make healthy decisions for themselves once they discover the motivation to make different choices. Many of the young adults we work with have the self-awareness that what they are doing is not working, but need additional guidance to remind them of why it is important for them personally to make changes in their lives.
Foundations Asheville Can Help
Foundations Asheville is a program for young adults ages 18-24 who are struggling to find the motivation to launch into adulthood. Many of our students struggle with anxiety, depression, social skills, and learning difficulties. This program is committed to helping young adults develop and sharpen the skills they need to be successful in the real world. There is a focus on teaching students how to enter the workforce, develop vocational trades, and functional living skills. Foundations Asheville gives young adults the opportunity to gain confidence, find their purpose, and learn useful skills that will help them navigate through the adult years.
For more information on how to help your young adult struggling with depression, call 18773187273. We can help your family today!