Mental Illness: Why Young Adults Are Most Susceptible


This past week, People magazine featured a cover story with one-time it-girl Mischa Barton, famous for playing the role of Marissa Cooper on the teen classic, “The O.C.” The headline however, was not celebrating her career achievements. Instead, it boldly announced her “Hollywood Nightmare,” which included body issues, drugs, and even time in a psych ward.

The 27-year-old starlet opened up about the demons that dragged her down back in 2009 and used her story as a cautionary tale for other young adults who find themselves in similar circumstances.

This comes at a time when another former teen star, Amanda Bynes, recently had a public meltdown over the summer, resulting in her being admitted to a psychiatric hospital and put under a conservatorship, where her parents became legally responsible for her.

It was also only a few years ago when 21-year-old singer and current judge on “The X-Factor,” Demi Lovato, spent three months in a rehab center where she was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. She eventually spoke out in an MTV special about her experiences, which also included an eating disorder and self-mutilation.

The fact that so many young Hollywood stars, both past and present, have come forward with issues that have affected them over the course of their later teens and early twenties is not a coincidence, nor is it something that only affects celebrities. Many 20-somethings these days are so concerned with their futures, whether school or work related, they lose sight of what’s most important: their health.

And that doesn’t mean just physical, but mental, as well. A number of studies show that your twenties are the most formative, as well as delicate, years for any person. It involves periods of high stress and transition, where one is pulled away from their comfort zone and receives new responsibilities, but also freedom.

Whether leaving home for the first time, leaving the school system, moving back home, or entering the work force, these higher levels of stress than normal can serve as triggers for mental illness.

Mental illness is much more common than you may think. It affects 1 in every 5 young adults, although only 25% of those suffering seek treatment. One of the worst parts is that it can have major implications on a person’s social life, job or school work, family, romantic relationships, and finances.

Even with all of this in mind, reasons for not getting help include the social stigma attached to it, health insurance issues, and avoidance or unawareness that there is a problem at all. Given that many 20-somethings are living either on their own or with friends who are running their own busy lives, it is usually unlikely for a family member or close companion to even notice behavioral changes in another person.

In your 20s, partying, drugs, and alcohol are a common occurrence, especially in college and the early post-grad years. Someone suffering from depression or anxiety may just be trying to go out and have a good time with friends, not realizing they are doing more damage to themselves.

Drug and alcohol abuse play a big role in mental illness, as many sufferers use these substances in excess to help cope with or ignore their symptoms. Excessive partying, lack of sleep, and a poor diet are no help either to a mentally ill person’s daily routine.

Common mental illnesses that manifest in young adults are bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Studies show that the brain does not fully develop until the mid-20s, and that these illnesses are present in the brain since birth, but in most cases do not show up until around this time.

The worse case is when sufferers don’t reach out to someone, as suicide is the second largest cause of death in college-aged adults. However, it is definitely preventable if one opens up about their illness and by doing so gets the help that they need. Free counseling is available on most college campuses and health insurance now covers many therapists and psychiatrists, so money does not have to be an issue anymore.

It is extremely important to stay in touch with your parents and remain close with friends. Many say relationships are key to living a healthy and happy life, and those closest to you will always want to help. While it can seem like the world is closing in on you, remember that there is always a way out.

Talking to a professional, medications, or the combination of both can help stabilize your mood and end your suffering. Finding the courage to speak out is coming one step closer to treating mental illnesses and getting your life back on track.

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