Depression and Anxiety in Young Adults
Anxiety and depressive disorder are much more common in young adults than in past generations. High school and college students are five times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety compared to teenagers fifty years ago. Social isolation and loneliness are some of the biggest issues that a young adult who is depressed may experience. This can lead to many outcomes, including an individual feeling isolated and helpless on a regular basis.
Substance abuse is an extremely common way of dealing with these problems as an individual tries to cope with their problems. Overeating, oversleeping, under eating, and not sleeping enough are all also coping mechanisms for those struggling with a mental illness. Other, more severe problems as a result of depression or anxiety disorder can include self-harming, suicidal thoughts, not going to therapy, and avoiding their prescribed medication.
However, it is important to understand that sometimes the adjustment from adolescence to adulthood can cause bumps in the road. Sometimes anxiety or depression may not be long-lasting and resolves itself as the young adult becomes more centered in the new experiences on their path. When an individual is suffering from anxiety or depression, it’s critical that they pay attention to the duration of their symptoms.
If a young adult, or anyone else, has five or more symptoms of depression for at least a two-week period, that indicates a problem classified as clinical depression. This is the time when additional help may be required to ensure a healthy and happy future for the young adult in question. This may include counseling, medication, or both in order to alleviate the problem.
Warning Signs of Anxiety and Depression
When considering whether someone is experiencing depression or anxiety, you can look to certain behaviors. These vary based on the individual but offer a way to look at a situation with perspective and awareness. Common signs of depression include:
- Lack of enjoyment doing things that were formerly pleasurable.
- Low energy and a constant feeling of fatigue.
- Reduced concentration and a pessimistic outlook on life.
- Inability to sleep, unable to go back to sleep.
- Increased consumption of drugs, alcohol, or other substances.
- Reduced interest in relationships and sexual activity.
- Eating much more or much less than typical.
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness.
- Irritability, frustration, or anger over small matters.
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
- Physical problems that seem to have no source.
- Academic problems that are not consistent with ability.
On the other hand, common symptoms of anxiety include the following:
- Feelings of nervousness, restlessness, or tension.
- A sense of impending doom, panic, or danger.
- Having an increased heart rate for no physical reason.
- Hyperventilation, which simply means breathing rapidly.
- Sweating and/or trembling for no obvious reason.
- Feelings of tiredness or weakness.
- Having problems sleeping or staying asleep.
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking about anything other than current worries.
- Gastrointestinal issues that have no underlying cause.
- Problems controlling feelings of worry.
- Avoiding or wanting to avoid events or situations that cause anxiety.
Types of Anxiety
There are numerous types of anxiety disorders, many of which have their own specific symptoms. Common issues are listed below, along with a short description of each.
Generalized anxiety disorder consists of excessive and persistent worry about events, sometimes routine ones. The worry is above and beyond what is warranted and is difficult to control. This type of anxiety often coincides with other anxiety disorders or depression.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by a fear and avoidance of places and situations that may cause the person to feel panicked, trapped, or embarrassed.
Panic disorder is a repeated episode of sudden intense anxiety that reaches a peak in a few minutes. This may cause shortness of breath, pounding heart, chest pain, or the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Social anxiety disorder occurs when someone has high levels of anxiety which results in an avoidance of social situations. An individual will become reclusive as they feel self-conscious, embarrassed, or are worried about being viewed in a negative light.
According to studies, depression has increased from about 9% in 2005 to over 11% in 2014 for adolescents and from 8.8% to 9.6% in young adults. Girls between the ages of 12 and 17 are most likely to be impacted; however this may be because boys with depression can be mislabeled when they are, in fact, depressed.
There are also specific situations that can lead to a risk of anxiety or depression, typically where a large change or loss is involved. This is especially true in children, teens, and young adults.
Some of these situations include either a death or illness of a friend or family member, loss of a friendship, moving to a new country, being diagnosed with a medical illness, experiencing abuse, or being affected by a disaster. It’s also worth stating that in 50% of cases of young adult depression there is some sort of separation anxiety involved.
College and the Workplace
As adolescents grow into adults, many situations occur that can be overwhelming and stressful. Going to college means making a lot of independent choices and being forced into new and sometimes uncomfortable situations. The same stands for those who are moving into the workplace rather than higher education.
For parents of young adults who are going off to college, it can be helpful to take your child to college and get them get set up before leaving them on their own. Other options include encouraging your child to talk to students, counselors, and professors about what to expect when coming to college and where to find support when it is needed.
If your young adult has a history of depression or anxiety, make sure that’s taken into consideration when it comes to university. It may be smart for this young adult to choose a college near home or find a doctor near the university to provide therapy and monitor use of medication.
Young adults live in a world where a college degree is akin to what a high school diploma was only generations back. This can increase the pressure that is put on young adults to go to college and major in something lucrative. Many college students become overwhelmed with financing their education or finding a job post graduation that will be able to support them. Unfortunately, it is very common for students to choose a career path for its financial reward rather than picking a field that they are truly passionate about. This once again can lead to unhappiness and feelings of regret.
Employment vs. Unemployment
Unemployment is another factor that shows a huge disparity when it comes to young adults. Young adults who are not employed are shown to be three times more likely to have depression than their working peers. In addition to that, unemployed young adults with disabilities are five times more likely to be depressed than employed peers.
This is a huge problem when you consider that people between 18 and 25 tend to have a higher unemployment rate than older adults. In fact, the unemployment rate for them is about triple that of people who are between 35 and 54. Without having a stable job, young adults are more susceptible to engaging in risky behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or doing drugs. This can lead to even more feelings of failure, which can eventually lead to a drug addiction.
Areas of Concern
There are certain factors that escalate feelings of anxiety and depression in young adults. With one in five people 16 to 24 suffering from a psychological problem, it is important to be aware of what may contribute to these problems and how you can avoid these triggers all together.
Some believe that those becoming young adults have been raised in a world of unrealistic expectations, without being taught coping skills that may be needed later in life. Getting less exercise, spending more time inside, having less face-to-face contact, and consuming a diet that has more processed ingredients can all contribute to mental illnesses in young adults, although not all studies agree.
Being in constant contact with friends and the world at large can be exciting, but it can also lead to some less wanted emotions, such as low self-esteem, jealousy, and paranoia. The more a young adult spends time on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr, the more these effects will take hold.
Some ways to avoid this problem include limiting use of social media to certain times of the day and avoiding phone use in bed. While social media certainly isn’t the cause of all depression and anxiety, it definitely has been shown to have negative side effects to our younger generations.
Not Leaving Bed
Being depressed can make a person feel like doing nothing. Often times than not, an individual suffering from depression will spend most of their time sleeping or staying in their bed. Staying in bed all day can make the symptoms of depression and anxiety even worse.
If an individual is feeling depressed and is beginning to show these symptoms, a helpful way to combat their feelings is to increase their daily exercise. A simple walk around the block a few times a day can even do the trick. Even simple tasks like cleaning the house or gardening can help tremendously in reducing the negative feelings of depression and anxiety. As long as the individual has a job to do, they will be less focused on their overwhelming feelings.
Get Enough Rest
Young adults and teenagers need upwards of nine hours of sleep a night and often have a different circadian rhythm than older adults. In this case, they may prefer to stay up late, but also appreciate sleeping in later, as well. Getting enough sleep can help with depression as lack of sleep can lead to an even worse mood. Of course, if insomnia is involved, this may not work as well as it would for others.
Visit with Friends
Socializing and being around others is an excellent way for improving your mood. Having someone to share experiences with or even talk about your issues in a casual environment can help significantly with depression or anxiety. However, these meetings with friends should be somewhere other than a bar or club as alcohol can lead to more depression and it’s hard to interact with friends in a noisy and crowded environment.
For young adults who experience some of the warning signs mentioned in this article, there are various ways to offer support. An excellent first step involves talking with them, if you are a friend or family member. However, be careful how you approach the situation, for some young people may become angry and defensive about their issues.
Some active listening tips include asking open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, being in a relaxed position as the conversation happens, and maintaining eye contact. Focus less on giving advice at this time, instead choose to acknowledge their feelings.
In addition to offering support and showing you care, it can be a good idea to give encouragement in things like being active, getting enough sleep, and eating healthy food. It also may help to suggest that the person seeks out a counselor or doctor who can help them at a higher level.
Recognizing anxiety or depression early can prevent the progression of the disease. Depression has an effect on brain development and function, so the longer it is present, the more likely it will have a greater impact on the brain. In addition, young adults and teenagers are more likely to self-harm when depressed, or engage in other self-destructive behaviors.
That said, if it seems the person you are concerned about is in a serious situation, do not be afraid to seek professional help immediately. It is always more important to save a life than to hold onto secrets.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, there are trained counselors available who can talk you through the problem and help you find solutions for the problem.