The life of a young adult can be a tumultuous and trying time. The transition from adolescent to adult can feel like a roller coaster without seat belts full of highs and lows, twists and turns.
And, let's be honest; change can be daunting. That said, there is perhaps no more daunting phase in one's life than the first few years after reaching adulthood. During this time, a young man or woman experiences mental, physical, environmental, and emotional changes that can easily lead them to develop a mental health disorder.
While it's common for young adults to experience mental health-related issues, many choose not to seek professional help for their psychological maladies. This, of course, is problematic considering the potential negative consequences that can arise from failing to seek appropriate mental health care that would otherwise allow them to live fully functional, adult lifestyles.
Mental Health Disorder vs. "Young Adult Behavior"
Young adults - men and women who just a few years removed from adolescence - tend to display symptoms of immaturity that are reminiscent of their teenage years. That said, simply because a young man or woman has somewhat petulant tendencies - Eg. acting on emotionally immature impulses and reactions - does not necessarily imply that said young adult has a mental health disorder. Again, to reiterate, these are young people who are not far removed from their angst-ridden years of high school - years which were also filled with uncertainty, inherent stresses, and life's confusing dilemmas in their own right.
Consequently, a young adult's propensity to revert to child-like behaviors during times of stress can often make it difficult for those around them to discern the difference between standard, albeit, child-like behaviors, and actions indicative of an undiagnosed mental illness.
To help clear up any potential confusion, below is a shortlist of indicators that may be indicative of a mental health disorder:
- The bad mood or grumpiness persists, lasting longer than a few days
- Withdrawn socially
- Continual anger, irritability, or depression
- Dramatic changes in appetite or sudden weight loss or gain
Mental Health Disorders in Young Adults
According to the latest statistics, one out of four teens has a mental illness.
How is this related to the mental health of young adults?
The teenage years are critical when it comes to a person's mental health. During this transitional phase, mental health professionals can definitively recognize depressive symptoms, clinical anxiety, and neurological-based disorders such as spectrum disorder more acutely.
According to studies conducted by Childtrends.org, age, namely the transitional phase of adolescence and young adulthood, is crucial in developing mental health disorders and addictions to harmful substances.
The findings mentioned above state that nearly half of young people's development of substance addictions and mental illnesses can be traced back to before 14. More surprisingly, that number jumps up to 75% after a person reaches 24.
However, this so-called child's study also found that a young adult's chances of developing a mental disorder are also highly influenced by genetics, environment, gender, and relationships.
For example, the site reports that young men have a higher chance of developing behavioral disorders such as ADHD during childhood. The study also found that young women are more likely to experience depression and eating disorders.
Other factors that are proven to develop mental health issues in young adults include:
- Being raised in a family of sexual or physical abuse
- Being raised by parents who have lower levels of education
- having parents who also suffer from a mental health disorder of their own.
4 Most Common Mental Health Disorders Found in Today's Young Adults
The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCD) reports that 36% of college students experience depressive symptoms. They also note that depressive illness is the most common contributing factor to young men and women choosing to drop out of school. What's more, the AUCCD study found that without appropriate psychiatric care, those experiencing depression were much likelier to experience suicidal ideation than those who received therapy.
Young men and women who live with depression can be affected to the point that even mundane activities, such as eating, sleeping, and simply getting out of bed, can be daunting if their illness is not treated appropriately.
As dozens of studies such as the one above have proven repeatedly, depression is alarmingly common. Even worse, in addition to being among the most prevalent mental illnesses, it is also the most dangerous.
Anxiety, particularly at lowered levels, is often just a part of everyone's day-to-day life. Having some form of stress is critical for one's life. Without it, completing essential life tasks such as balancing a checkbook, saving money, or meeting academic/occupational deadlines would be nearly impossible.
However, when anxiety affects a person's everyday life, this biologically inherent stressor becomes a severe issue and evolves into a mental disorder.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) credits anxiety as the most common mental health disorder in the US. According to the organization's findings, as many as 40 million adults live with clinical anxiety.
What's more, the ADAA also reports that only about one-third seek treatment of these 40 million people.
Additionally, the ADAA states that roughly 75% of Americans who suffer from an anxiety disorder will experience their first anxiety episode during young adulthood - more specifically, before the age of 22.
Anxiety Disorders Found in Young Adults:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
Millions of young people, college-aged women, in particular, struggle with an eating disorder.
What's worse, most of these millions of suffering young adults choose not to seek treatment for a condition that can prove fatal in severe cases.
Eating disorders are classified as extreme behaviors, attitudes, and emotions concerning food habits that, in turn, create a distorted self-image. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, or simply (NAANAD), asserts that eating disorders are among the most dangerous and potentially life-threatening mental health disorders. While the dangers of eating disorders are widely known, the following are lesser-known facts about the associated illnesses:
- Eating disorders much more common than most realize - the latest statistics from NAANAD report that upwards of 30,000,000 people in the United States live with at least one type of eating disorder
- Eating disorders are statistically the deadliest mental health disorder - more fatal than depression
- A person dies as a result of an eating disorder every one minute
Addictive behavior is classified as one's dependency and compulsive usage of harmful behaviors, namely, the abuse of harmful substances.
Excessive alcohol and drug abuse is a systemic issue among America's young adults. There is perhaps a no better example of this trend than on display than the nation's college campuses, where dangerous prescriptions are openly abused, sold, and shared among students.
Whether it's abusing stimulants to get ahead in their classes, getting caught up in the drinking scene, or experimenting with opioids at a party, young men and women are dependent on drugs in unprecedented numbers.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that:
- Roughly one out of four college students report having a drinking problem
- 60% of college students have consumed alcohol or illicit drugs within the past month, and roughly two-thirds of those students engage in binge drinking.
- Almost 20% of college students can be classified as having alcoholic tendencies.
Why Treatment for Mentally Ill Young Adults Is Necessary
For mentally ill young men and women, seeking psychiatric care should be a number one priority. As we have thoroughly covered, failure to seek help could be life-threatening. However, in addition to potentially preventing their death, psychiatric treatment helps mentally ill young adults manage their self-destructive emotions and behaviors.
Moreover, young adults living with mental illness can finally live a happy and fulfilled life by adopting mental health treatment regimens.
Unfortunately, despite the inherent dangers of failing to receive treatment, and the exponential upside of utilizing psychiatric care, less than 50% of mentally ill young adults end up doing so.
As to why young men and women choose not to receive mental illness treatment, there are many vital factors to consider. The most prevalent of these culprits, though, is the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Something as trivial as fear of others judging them for receiving psychiatric care is enough to cause millions of young people to opt-out to seek help. Largely thanks to this unfortunate cultural attitude, countless young people actively choose to suffer in silence, many of whom end up addicted to harmful substances they use as a form of "self-medication."
Worst still, many young people end up succumbing to their undiagnosed mental illnesses. According to the most recent statistics, suicide has risen to the third-leading cause of death among young adults. Not surprisingly, 90% of those who take their own lives have a mental health disorder, with 60% having a depressive disorder at the time of their deaths.
That's not to say that the consequences of opting out of treatment are always fatal, though. Rather, the remaining millions of untreated young men and women go on to live their lives but greatly suffer when it comes to the overall quality of their day-to-day lives.
While these adverse consequences of suffering in silence may not result in death, they are still devastating enough to drastically affect the afflicted individuals who suffer from their emotionally-damaging symptoms.
If you are a young adult who has a mental illness, or perhaps a loved one of said suffering individual, DO NOT hesitate to seek necessary mental health treatment for you or your loved one!