Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a mental illness characterized by extreme sadness, irritability, brain fog, and loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities. There are many symptoms of depression, many of which arise in young adults in their twenties and thirties.
The average age for developing depression is in the mid-20s. Although it can be hard to know the exact cause of someone’s depression, experts have theorized that the following issues affecting this age group contribute to their high level of it.
It’s believed that the social pressures you face as an adult contribute to depression. While society views older teenagers as young adults, higher expectations are put on you once you reach your twenties. You’re expected to seamlessly transition from living at home and going to school to living on your own, getting a good job, and maintaining a social life.
Each part of those expectations can be incredibly taxing, and most young adults don’t yet realize they don’t need to have all of those things figured out yet to live a fruitful life. Experiencing a “quarter-life crisis” is becoming more common among those in their mid-twenties, especially if you compare yourself to friends and relatives who seemingly have their lives figured out.
Entering the workforce is an overwhelming step that takes time to adjust to. You may enter the workforce and realize that what they taught you in school pales in comparison to the real thing. You may even feel you need to switch career paths but feel pressured to follow the one you’re already invested in
All of this can put enormous stress on you as you’re figuring life out on your own for the first time. The stress of it all can lead to or contribute to depression.
Research has found that around half of the children in the United States experience trauma. It’s a shocking statistic, but what might not be as surprising is how that trauma can creep up in your twenties.
Once you’re in your twenties, you may discover or rediscover the effects of trauma you experienced in your childhood, and you may not even realize what the trauma was.
Childhood trauma can come from physical or sexual abuse, a learning disability, detached or overly anxious parents, or having too many siblings in the home. Whatever caused your trauma can affect how you interact with the world. Trauma can cause physical symptoms and can lead to both anxiety and depression.
Less Opportunity for Interaction
Humans are social creatures, and even introverts need social interaction regularly. Between striving to get your career started, America’s aggressively individualistic society, and many interactions moving to social media, you might see your friends and family less frequently.
In school, we put kids and adolescents into situations where they interact with teachers and other students. However, things are a bit more complicated once you’re on your own. Friends from high school and college are going into their careers and may be moving far away. With the stress of truly being on your own for the first time, it can be hard for you to put yourself out there to form new friendships.
Loneliness has negative effects on your physical and psychological health, including depression.
Social media platforms are great tools to connect with old friends and interact with like-minded strangers, but they can also be very toxic environments. Over 60% of adults and over 80% of teens use social media. Many of these platforms post photos or life updates to get users to compare themselves to others.
Users typically only post about their success or good moments, not wanting to let the internet in on their rough times. While understandable, this can lead you to believe the user lives an idealized life and think of themselves as failures because they cannot get there.
Experts believe these constant comparisons and the fear of missing out on events or experiences showcased by others contribute to mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression.
Nutrition is known to contribute to your mental health, with a Mediterranean diet getting specific praise for helping to lower levels of anxiety and depression. That’s because different nutrients increase important mood-boosting hormones, including serotonin and dopamine.
Vitamins A, B, and C, iron, potassium, folate, magnesium, selenium, and thiamine are just some of the nutrients found in whole foods that contribute to helping you have a healthier, more stable mood.
Diets high in cheap, processed foods – common in the United States – reduce the amount of these nutrients you receive, making your twenties feel even more stressful.
Sleep is important for both your physical and mental health. While you sleep, your body recovers and your brain sorts the information it acquired during the day. Not getting enough sleep can cause your body to be tired and your mind to be in a more fragile state. Science has shown that those with insomnia face ten times the risk of depression.
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep at night, but adults in their twenties are less likely to get those hours of shut-eye between work and play. Stress from your day can make it harder to sleep, which then contributes to a lack of sleep, which makes you feel more stressed. It’s a vicious cycle that can contribute to depression.
Research has found that putting away electronic devices can help you sleep better since exposure to blue light before bed can decrease melatonin levels. Having a way to wind down, whether it’s reading a book, listening to a podcast, or taking a bath, can distract you from the day and help you sleep better.
While there are ways to help you get into a better headspace, it’s essential to seek help from a trusted provider when treating depression.
Depression is an illness and treatment may involve medication or therapy – and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Over 20% of American adults have sought mental health care in the past few years.
The stigma around mental health is disappearing, but it’s important for anyone who’s struggling to have a good support system to acknowledge and support your need for mental health care.
Depression in Your Twenties
With all that life throws your way in your twenties and thirties, it can be easy for you to end up experiencing depression. The significant life changes of being on your own, starting a career, and navigating new relationships can be a stressful and isolating time. The good news is, with habit changes and proper treatment, these can still be some of the best years of your life.