According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 13.1% of young adults ages 18 to 25 had a major depressive episode that year. These young adults suffered symptoms such as pervasive sadness, fatigue, lack of motivation, and disturbances in sleep and appetite for a minimum of a two-week period. That number of affected adolescents is 3.2 million, 13.3% of the population aged 12 to 17.
While many celebrities have opened up about their own struggles with depression to bring mental health into public consciousness, particularly among teens and young adults, this national study shows an over two percent increase in depression in those aged 18 to 25 from 2016 to 2017. (In 2016, the same survey showed that 10.9% of young adults had a major depressive episode.)
The same survey revealed that about 35% of patients 18 or older with a major depressive episode did not receive any treatment, whether care by a health professional, medication, or both. This concerning statistic reveals that although many young adults across the country need help for depression, a significant amount are not getting it.
Look Out for These Symptoms of Depression in Young Adults
Since many young adults are not getting the treatment they need for major depressive disorder, it’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms in your friends, family, and yourself. While you should always rely on a proper diagnosis from a medical professional, being able to recognize depression can help you and your loved ones find ways to cope.
Some of the symptoms of depression in young adults are:
- Changes in Thoughts and Behavior: When suffering from depression, many people experience a shift in how they respond to things they used to love. Loss of interest and excitement and an increase in irritability are common symptoms of depression. You might feel hopeless, sad, or indifferent about things going on around you.
- Difficulty Concentrating: During a major depressive episode, it may be difficult to concentrate and complete regular tasks. This could come in the form of comorbid anxiety or a feeling that you can’t make up your mind and make seemingly simple decisions.
- Irregular Sleep Patterns: Changes in sleep patterns due to depression can be different for each individual case. Some people find themselves sleeping a lot more and feel tired throughout the day. Others can’t fall asleep at night when they’re trying to go to bed.
- Physical Symptoms: Your mental and physical health are deeply connected. Sometimes depression can cause unexpected body pains or headaches. Depression can also affect your appetite—either an increase or a decrease—which will in turn cause your body to feel differently.
Common Causes of Depression in Young Adults
Being a young adult can be difficult. Many different factors can contribute to depression in young adults, but each person is different and there is not always a clear and direct cause for every patient. However, there are several common aspects of young adulthood that can contribute to depression.
Fully developed adults and young adults have different brains. The brain’s structural foundation has been established during adolescence, but neuron (brain cell) connections and functioning are still being made and restructured in a substantial way until a person is in their mid-20’s. In addition, young adults experience changes in hormone and neurotransmitter levels that affect mood.
High Levels of Stress and Anxiety in the Community
Depression is associated with stress, which has its own physiological consequences that triggers chemical reactions and changes in the body that can be long-lasting, especially if the stress is chronic. Common causes of stress in young people include peer pressure, being bullied, moving to a new place, problems at school or work, and unrealistic expectations from themselves, family, friends, or culture.
Additional stress for those in their twenties can come from financial stressors, like student loans, or anxiety over dating and careers. Most young adults are still figuring out their ways in the world and establishing clear identities, and this time in flux can lead to symptoms of depression.
Social media is continuing to grow in popularity, and for most teenagers and young adults, social media is a large part of how they interact with each other and stay informed about current events. Unfortunately, recent studies have linked social media use to depression in young adults.
Research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine shows that the more young adults use social media, the more likely they are to be depressed. Though other studies have been hesitant to define a causal relationship between social media and depression, many researchers have linked social media use to symptoms including anxiety, poor sleep, low self-esteem, and the inability to focus. With 79% of the US population using social media, it’s crucial to pay attention to the effects it’s having on young adults’ mental health.
Reasons that social media may potentially contribute to depression include a fear of missing out (colloquially known as FOMO), unrealistic expectations, and constantly comparing oneself with others.
Trauma in Early Life
Certain events, such as early losses and emotional trauma, may leave individuals more vulnerable to developing depression later in life. Many researchers believe that early trauma causes subtle changes in brain function that accounts for symptoms of depression. Especially for people without a solid support system, attempting to deal with prior losses and significant traumatic experiences may be incredibly difficult and lead to depression.
Recent scientific studies have indicated that depression can be traced to one’s genes. British researchers have isolated a gene for depression, and hormone levels and certain neurotransmitters are linked to depression as well. This is not to say that a single gene causes depression or that having any particular gene means one will suffer from depression, but rather that genetic makeup plays a part in depression in young adults.
Mental Health Resources for Young Adults
In order to prevent depression in young adults or to help those young adults already suffering, it’s important to seek help and utilize the resources available.
- Active Minds: This fantastic organization seeks to destigmatize conversation about mental health and take action against mental health issues in young adults through activism, education, support, and research.
- JED Foundation: The JED Foundation seeks to promote mental health and prevent suicide in college students, and they provide a lot of resources for the transition to college and mental health support.
- National Alliance on Mental Health: This website provides guides and answers major questions about all realms of mental health.
Treating Depression in Young Adults
Young people are often resistant to seeking treatment for various reasons, including stigma, cost, and lack of information about what depression actually is. Some believe that treatment will not work for them, since some treatments don’t have the best success rates. Antidepressant medications, for example, do not adequately help in about a third of the people who take them for depression.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is one possible solution to help treat depression in young adults. It is a particularly attractive treatment option for young people because this population often especially wants to avoid side effects such as weight gain, sedation, and sexual dysfunction that are so common with antidepressant medications. TMS is a non-invasive form of treatment during which the patient is entirely awake. TMS is safe and effective to treat depression in young adults and can be an excellent alternative to antidepressant medications.
In addition to TMS, some other strategies for combatting depression in young adults include:
- Talking through feelings with family, friends, or a medical professional. Articulating one’s emotions is important when dealing with depression. Plus, making time to socialize can help deter feelings of isolation and loneliness.
- Exercising, even just a little bit. Sometimes depression can make you feel like you’d rather sit around and do nothing, but physical activity is a proven way to promote positive changes in your mental health. Hitting the gym, going to a yoga class, or even taking a brisk walk around the neighborhood can cause chemical changes that have an antidepressant effect.
- Keeping a regular sleep schedule. It might be hard, but try going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
- Eating healthy. Even though it can be easier to opt for junk foods, avoid processed foods and excessive amounts of sugar. A nutrient-rich diet filled with protein and fresh vegetables can go a long way to improve your mood.
Contact Mid City TMS to Treat Depression in Young Adults
If you or a young adult in your life is interested in TMS treatment, consider making an appointment with Mid City TMS. Come in today to learn about our treatment for depression in young adults. Our New York City TMS center is conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan on Madison Avenue, and we are open from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Friday. Give us a call at 212-517-1867 or contact us today.