‘Every 20-something I know is in therapy for something’

by Grace

A 20-something college graduate looks around and finds her peers need counseling to help them handle their unemployment blues.

Being depressed prolongs the unemployment process, and I believe a lot of kids my age were/are depressed. One of the ways to pull out of depression is to be productive. If you need medical attention, get it. If you need therapy, get therapy. Every 20-something I know is in therapy for something. I take anti-depressants and anxiety medication. My anxiety medication is the butt of a lot of jokes, but it helps me. A part of being an adult is knowing when you need help and seeking it.

Is this hyperbole?  Let’s look at the numbers.

Young adults do seem to suffer from mental illness at higher rates, with the 18-25 age group the highest at almost 30%.  I could not find data for how many are undergoing therapy, but apparently there has been shift from “talk therapy” to drugs as the dominant mode of treatment.

Who is taking medication?

This graph shows that members of my demographic group, females aged 40-59, use the most antidepressants.  This is consistent with my personal observation.  But other reasons may explain why the numbers are so high.

The survey captured how many patients are on antidepressants, not necessarily how many patients are being treated for depression with antidepressants. Because antidepressants are also prescribed for anxiety, neurological pain, fibromyalgia, sleep problems, and menopausal hot flashes, some of those reporting being on antidepressants may have been medicated for those reasons, not for depression, says Dr. John Messmer, associate professor of Family and Community Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine.

Well.  I’ll just reiterate the advice given above, applicable both to unemployed* 20-somethings and menopausal women.

If you need medical attention, get it. If you need therapy, get therapy.

* Unfortunately, with health insurance so closely tied to employment, paying for medical needs can be the biggest challenge for this group.


6 Comments to “‘Every 20-something I know is in therapy for something’”

  1. In an odd way, I think this is tied to your post about the rise of tutoring services. Back when I graduated from college, it was into a similar severe recession. There were NO jobs for any of us. Like most of my friends, I mucked around for 6 months, unemployed, and then went to grad school. I don’t remember anyone being in therapy for being unemployed, or taking medications (at least, not the legal ones) to deal with the stress of being unemployed. Frankly, I don’t remember anyone being so apocalyptic about our situation. It was a bad recession, and as we were newly graduated, we were the bottom people on the totem pole.
    Today’s kids are used to everything being medicalized, syndrome-ized, and outsourced to professionals.


  2. I agree about the tie-in to the tutoring explosion. Also, it could also be related to the explosion of information and choices that most of us have. Students may not know much about history and math, but they “know” the horrible admit rates for the top colleges and all the doomsday economic predictions.

    Or, we were just tougher in the old days. [only partly sarcastic]


  3. Hi Grace – My perception (mother of an 18-year old college freshman) is that there has been a shift in emphasis from talk therapy to meds that goes back …. gosh. At least 15 years?

    That said, in my personal circles parents take their children to therapists, not psychiatrists, or to therapists **and** psychiatrists.


  4. I, too, graduated into a recession, which I did not fully process or understand, being young. (Ignorance is bliss!)

    However, that recession was completely different from this one: when it was over, it was over.

    We are, today, in a literal depression. We are in an L-shaped recovery, not a V-shaped recovery or a U-shaped one.

    The expressions “L-shaped,” “V-shaped,” and “U-shaped” take their names from graphs of GDP or NGDP growth.

    For example: http://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/6323/salmon_0/

    The line you see in that chart is shaped like an L. The ‘back’ of the L is depressed from the trend line. That’s the depression.

    In a V-shaped recovery, the economy goes down and then shoots back up by twice the amount of the decline, putting everyone back “on trend.” The economy makes up what it lost (5 years in, we are not quite to that point yet, but close) AND it gets back to where it would have been if the recession had not happened.

    In an L-shaped ‘recovery,’ the economy goes down and stays down. When the economy starts growing again, there is no “catch-up” growth, and you don’t go back to trend. The result: a jobless recovery.

    I did not live through a jobless recovery as a 21-year old just graduating from college.

    A jobless recovery has many, many dire consequences for employment, for home prices, for savings, for retirement, for optimism, and (presumably) for mental health.

    The best chart comparing the recessions we had to the depression we have now:

    And Michael Darda on the jobs gap:


  5. cijohn — From my perspective, if you include ADHD meds the percentage of mid/upper-income college students on some kind of drugs prescribed by psychiatrists could be about 20-25% or more. Many of them are probably also receiving some kind of therapy.

    I might write a post about a new trend of prescribing anti-depressives for normal “grieving” depression, which up to now has not been considered a pathological condition.


  6. LOTS of great information in those graphs! But it does make me more fearful for our kids’ futures. Ugh.


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