Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 16th 2014 Contents B20
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, May 16, 2014
Whether they’re stressing out over landing a job,
finding a mate or repaying student loans, 20-some-
things have plenty on their plate that could bring
their mood down.
Although the 20s are typically considered the years
of exploration and having fun, depression in young
adults is not uncommon.
Young adults are saying goodbye to childhood and
adolescence, and trying to make their own way while
dealing with frequent change and uncertainty, which
could trigger feelings of sadness and irritability.
Going off into the world, establishing a clear identity,
developing a capacity for intimate relationships, and
forming a foundation to build a future career and
adult life are all part of the challenges to people in
their 20s that could make them vulnerable to depres-
sion, said Dr Stuart Goldman, a child and adolescent
psychiatrist at Boston Children’s Hospital.
What’s more, those in their early 20s are dealing
with these challenges before their brain is fully mature.
The prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain involved
in reasoning and controlling impulses—finishes devel-
oping about age 25.
Most people who have a genetic vulnerability to
depression, typically experience their first episode of
the condition between ages 14 and 24, Goldman said.
“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, reflecting the recur-
rent nature of the illness.
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-plea-
surable 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, with-
drawing from their peers and spending more time
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
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 pur-
suing 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-some-
things 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 recognising 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
in people in their 20s
less interest in eating, but others put on pounds, using
food as a form of self-comfort.
The important message for 20-somethings is that
“depression is a really treatable illness,” Goldman said.
— Live Science.com
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