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8 Reasons Why Depression is Common During Our Early 20’s

min read

By Catherine Roberts

Many of us remember our early 20’s with nostalgia. For most, this is our first shot at independence, moving out of the house for work or attending college or university away from home for the first time.  This period of self-discovery is marked by good memories for many. However, on the other hand, a large majority of early adults struggle with loneliness, failure, extreme pressure, financial debt, feelings ostracism, grave self-doubt, and the first taste of heartbreak. This is why psychologists often dub the early 20s population as vulnerable to feelings of depression and note that initial symptoms of depression commonly strike around age 25.

Here are eight common ways that depression can set in for the early 20s set…

1. Biology

Neuroscientists from Yale university point out that oftentimes the brain’s frontal lobe (our capacity for decision-making and cognitive reasoning) doesn’t full form until we reach around 25-years of age, which is why huge decisions—like career choices, living arrangements, friend groups, and decisions made in social settings—can sometimes create a whole lot of worry and fear.

2. Criticism

Psychologists from the University of California point out that because the brain is still developing in early adulthood, seeing the world in definitive blacks and whites is common. We either consider ourselves successful or failures, popular or unaccepted, and in either a negative or positive light. This is why the rejection, emotions, and criticism we experience at this time can dramatically impact our self worth and cause depressive feelings.

3. Lifestyle

Scientists from the University of California also point out that decisions we are forced with, often for the very first time, in our early 20’s can cause feelings of depression—for instance, alcohol and drug use, transitioning from high school to college or life at home to living independently—can result in heath issues, dietary deficiencies, financial debt, lowered confidence, and sleep deprivation.

4. Personality

Think of yourself in your early 20’s—you likely aren’t the same person, are you?  A study from UCLA found that along with your brain, your personality was still developing at a swift pace during this time because we are at our most conscientiousness due new found independence and responsibility.

5. Self Pressure

Remember when you were told high school would be “the most important years of your life”? That wasn’t the case, and neither are your early 20s. Sure, many of us use this time to set the stage for many important life events—meeting a potential spouse, buying a first car or home, landing our dream job, investing, and shaping our health—however, many of us put irrational expectations on ourselves and feel ashamed and deflated when we don’t live up to them.

6. Finances

The career choices you make in your early 20s probably influenced your current earning potential in some way, correct? While not all of us were lucky enough to sail effortlessly from school into our dream job or even our chosen profession—putting off working or getting into credit card debt almost always sets the tone for your future finances and earning potential. The pressure of debt may set in and make it difficult to escape over the next decade.

7. Relationships

Many of us still reel from the relationships of our early 20s. For instance, did you hook up without regard for your self-worth, were you used, or did you treat dating like a journey to learn what you wanted in a potential lifetime partner? Often, the bad relationship habits (i.e., feelings of trust and self-worth) we form in our 20’s start a destructive cycle of depression and emotional baggage that we drag with us, unknowingly, into our 30s and 40s.

8. Actions

Many of us look back on our early 20’s with “what ifs?” in mind. Perhaps we depended on the folks for support for far too long, or maybe we didn’t act on a specific opportunity that we now deem “the one that got away”. Drifting can be common in our early 20s—especially if we face setbacks (i.e., returning home to live, taking on part time work not in our chosen field). However, instead of a learning opportunity, it’s easy to be deflated by this period of doubt and hardships.


Catherine Roberts


Catherine is our go-to writer for women’s health news, diet trends and more. She’s dedicated to providing Activebeat readers with the information they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle every day.

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