The COVID-19 pandemic left everyone having to figure out something truly unprecedented in modern times on the fly. For months, people were stuck inside their homes, unable to go about their daily lives that they had grown accustomed to over their entire life.
This not only took a toll on the physical health of many but their mental health as well. In fact, one group that was particularly impacted was young adults, who found themselves facing unique stressors and uncertainties. Already a group that suffers from mental health issues at a higher rate, mental health in young adults took a harder hit than usual as a result of the pandemic.
In this blog, we will take a look at the landscape of mental health in young adults, exploring its complexities, prevalence, and how the treatment professionals at Westwind Recovery® can help.
How Are Young Adults Affected By Mental Health?
As we touched on in the introduction, the recent COVID pandemic amplified the mental health challenges for a group of people who already suffered mentally at a higher rate than others.
Young adulthood is a pivotal phase marked by transitions, identity exploration, and the pursuit of independence. However, it is also a period rife with stressors, such as academic pressures, career uncertainties, and relationship complexities.
As if that wasn’t enough for young adults to be dealing with, the pandemic introduced a whole new set of challenges including social isolation, disruptions in education and employment, and a pervasive sense of uncertainty about the future.
All this created the perfect storm if you will, resulting in roughly 63% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 reporting mental health symptoms, such as depression, and anxiety in June of 2020 according to a CDC study.
What Is the Most Common Mental Disorder Affecting Young Adults?
While there are a number of mental health disorders that affect young adults, the one that tends to be most common is anxiety disorder, specifically Generalized Anxiety Disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. For young adults specifically, the pressures of academic performance, societal expectations, and the uncertainty associated with major life decisions often contribute to heightened anxiety levels, thus increasing the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Depression is another prominent mental health issue among young adults. Depression is often characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities. The transition from adolescence to adulthood, coupled with the challenges posed by the pandemic, has also led to an increase in the number of young adults suffering from depression.
Why Do Young Adults Have Worse Mental Health?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 suffer from mental health issues at a higher rate than any other age demographic.
Several factors contribute to this higher rate of mental health issues including the transition that happens during this time in a person’s life. The young adult years are marked by significant changes and uncertainties such as academic pressures, career-related anxieties, and societal expectations, all of which can create a perfect storm of stress and anxiety and can increase the risk of the development of a mental health disorder.
Over the past few years specifically, beyond just these normal stressors, the social and economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic added an extra layer of mental health anguish. Young adults faced abrupt changes in education, employment, and social interactions, disrupting the stability and routine they had come to rely on. As a result, the added stress of having to adapt to a rapidly changing world took an additional toll on their already fragile mental well-being.
What Are Signs of Mental Illness in Young Adults?
While mental health struggles may be unavoidable in some young adults, recognizing the signs of mental illness can be crucial for early detection, intervention, treatment, and support.
Below are some common signs that you or a loved one may be struggling with mental health issues:
- Changes in Behavior – Sudden and drastic changes in behavior, such as increased irritability, withdrawal from social activities, or a decline in academic or work performance, can signal mental health concerns.
- Mood Swings – Extreme mood swings, prolonged sadness, or unexplained outbursts of anger may indicate an underlying mental health disorder.
- Sleep Disturbances – Disruptions in sleep patterns, whether it’s insomnia or excessive sleeping, can be indicative of mental health challenges.
- Physical Symptoms – Unexplained physical complaints such as headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue may be linked to mental health issues.
- Substance Abuse – Engaging in substance abuse as a coping mechanism is a concerning sign that requires attention and support.
How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health in Young Adults?
As if young adults don’t already have enough going on in their lives, the current generation of 18 to 25-year-olds also has the world of social media to deal with, something that older generations did not have to deal with during their formative years.
While social media does provide value in some ways, particularly the ability to stay connected and informed at all times, it can also lead to an increase in mental health challenges. Social media can create unrealistic expectations, contributing to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
Beyond just that, the constant exposure to carefully crafted images and lifestyles on social media can lead to unhealthy comparisons, amplifying feelings of isolation and self-doubt. Young adults already feel the pressure to conform to societal standards. Thinking they have to do so in unrealistic ways can take a toll on their overall mental health and well-being. There are also the unique challenges that come with cyberbullying and online harassment, another thing that older generations didn’t have to deal with.
What is the Best Way to Improve Young Adult Mental Health Conditions?
It’s important to remember that, whether it’s yourself or someone you know, your overall mental health can be improved with the right interventions. While seeking counseling from a licensed therapist, counselor, or treatment professional can help with your mental health struggles, there are also things you can do on your own to improve your overall mental health.
Below are some strategies for improving young adults to improve their overall mental health:
- Support Services – Ensuring easy access to mental health support services is vital. Many schools offer mental health services to students to help them navigate the challenges that come with young adulthood.
- Education and Awareness – Mental health education can help young adults recognize, understand, and address their mental health challenges.
- Stress Management – Learning and implementing effective stress management techniques such as mindfulness, and relaxation exercises can contribute to better mental well-being. Westwind Recovery® offers a meditation therapy program.
- Open Communication – Feeling comfortable talking openly and honestly with someone, whether it’s a friend, family member, or treatment professional reduces the overall stigma associated with mental health.
- Healthy Lifestyle – Regular physical activity, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep contribute to overall well-being which, in turn, plays a crucial role in mental health.
What Are the Most Common Treatments for Mental Disorders in Young Adults?
In some cases, a young adult’s mental health struggles require professional intervention and treatment. In the event that professional mental health treatment is required, treating mental health conditions in young adults often involves a combination of therapeutic approaches tailored to individual needs.
Some common treatments for mental disorders in young adults include:
- Psychotherapy – Various forms of psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and interpersonal therapy, are effective in treating a range of mental health disorders. These therapeutic approaches help individuals explore and address underlying issues, develop coping skills, and foster resilience.
- Medication – In some cases, medication may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of certain mental disorders. It’s important for healthcare professionals to conduct a thorough assessment and work collaboratively with the individual to determine the most suitable treatment plan.
- Support Groups – Joining support groups or engaging in group therapy allows young adults to connect with others facing similar challenges. The sense of community and shared experiences can be a powerful source of support.
- Lifestyle Modifications – Encouraging lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep, can have a positive impact on mental health. These interventions complement other forms of treatment and contribute to overall well-being.
Westwind Recovery® Can Help Improve Mental Health in Young Adults
Being a young adult is already challenging enough when it comes to mental health. The recent COVID pandemic made an already challenging time in many young adults’ lives even more challenging, leading to an increase in feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
At Westwind Recovery®, we understand the unique challenges that young adults go through. That’s why we offer mental health treatment services to help those who are struggling to enjoy their lives to the fullest. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one with their mental health struggles, contact us today.
Dr. Deena is the Chief Clinical Officer of Westwind Recovery®, an award-winning outpatient treatment center in Los Angeles where she oversees the clinical and administrative program and treatment methods. Dr. Deena is a doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker since 1993. LCSW #20628. Originally from the East Coast, Dr. Deena has worked running treatment centers, worked as a therapist in psychiatric hospitals as well as school settings and currently has a thriving private practice in the LA area. Dr. Deena has appeared regularly on the Dr. Phil Show as an expert since 2003. She has also been featured on many other TV shows, podcasts and has contributed to written publications as well as podcasts.