7 Ways to Recognize Depression in 20-Somethings

The 20s are considered an age where one grows up. You leave childhood and adolescence and try to establish yourself as an adult.

Ideally, you are having fun with your equally young, preferably hot, girlfriend/boyfriend, you have begun building your career, life is good.

During your 20s, you have a career to build, a partner to select and you also have friends who are doing better than you, which secretly fills you with jealousy.

You also realize your dream may take longer than you thought to achieve and you may have to start working at the very bottom of the food chain, you know… because your dad is a driver and your grandfather before him was a carpenter and your great grandfather, rumour has it, was a famous chicken thief.

So you don’t have any contacts or referrals, nor do you know any ‘important’ people.

This realization can be too much for a young chap straight from campus, where the As and Bs in his transcripts gave him a false sense of prosperity.

He probably believed the old tale: work hard, get good grades, graduate with a second class upper or first class, get a well paying job, enjoy life.

What a fallacy!

It takes a lot more to transform As and Bs to Ksh, $ than they tell you in school.

It is, therefore, not hard to understand how and why young vibrant 20-somethings turn into depressed, lethargic zombies.

Worry not though, experts have come up with a few ways to tell whether you or your 20-something friend or relative is depressed.

Most people who have a genetic vulnerability to depression, typically experience their first episode of the condition between ages 14 and 24, Dr. Stuart Goldman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Boston Children’s Hospital told Livescience.

“The vast majority of people with a depressive episode in this age group will have a recurrence within five years of the first episode,” he said.

To determine whether a 20-something might be depressed, Goldman described some common signs and symptoms in this age group.

A lack of enjoyment

Losing interest in once-pleasurable activities is a telltale sign of depression, Goldman said. People in their 20s might still go out with friends, but they may not enjoy themselves or have fun. Or they may isolate themselves and be less sociable, withdrawing from their peers and spending more time alone.

Low energy

“People with depression feel hopeless,” Goldman told Live Science. And with a loss of hope often comes a lack of motivation.

Feeling persistently down seems to drain energy and increase fatigue, making it harder to get out of bed or keep up with usual activities.

Reduced concentration

A mind filled with negative thoughts and a pessimistic outlook could lack focus and be indecisive during a stage in life when people are faced with important choices about careers, moving to a new city, gaining financial independence and pursuing romantic relationships.

Poor concentration and inattentiveness while in college, on the job or in the military can further erode self-esteem.

Early morning awakenings

Depressed 20-somethings may find themselves frequently waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning, unable to fall back asleep.

People with depression may have abnormalities in levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, Goldman explained.

Young adults with depression often have higher cortisol levels in the early morning hours, which disrupts sleep.

Increased alcohol consumption or use of other drugs

To ease the pain and loneliness of depression, some young adults may turn to alcohol or other drugs as an escape or to numb their pain.

“Be honest with yourself about substance abuse,” Goldman said. “Don’t just say everybody else is doing it.” Having a close confidant, whether it’s a friend or life partner, can help in recognizing a problem and doing something about it, he said.

Less interest in sex

During a time when others may be frequently hooking up or looking to settle down, someone with depression may have less interest in sex, or a reduced sex drive.

Weight changes

People with depression can have a shift in their weight, in either direction.

Some people lose weight because they lose their appetite and have less interest in eating, but others put on pounds, using food as a form of self-comfort.

For parents of young adults, seeing their child struggle with depression is a challenge for them, too.

Goldman recommends that parents shift their role from “managing” their kids when they are 18 to 20, to becoming “consultants,” starting at age 21 and beyond, available to provide a young person with guidance and support.

He said parents should remember that “young adults need to have the capacity to make decisions on their own.”

The important message for 20-somethings is that “depression is a really treatable illness,” Goldman said.