Young Adults’ Experiences of Depression in the U.S.


Age at interview: 21
Age at diagnosis: 16

Brief outline: Devin’s depression began in childhood. He connects it, along with his diagnosis of anorexia and his self-harming, with a history of neglect. He was hospitalized in his teens. Therapy, meditation and other holistic approaches have been helpful. He does not take medication.

Background: Devin lives with his girlfriend and other roommates in a city he recently moved to from another part of the country. He has a part-time job in a store. He is White.

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Devin’s parents divorced when he was two, and he moved back and forth between their houses during his childhood. His mother was “always kind of neglectful, when it came to love”, perhaps for Devin even more so than for his five siblings, and his father was overbearing as well as actively suicidal. Both of them “cared about themselves more often than they cared about anyone else”. 

Depression was part of Devin’s life beginning at a young age. For a lot of his childhood he was “pretty numb emotionally”. As a teenager he also began to self-harm, developed an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa), and struggled both with getting motivated to do everyday things and with anger. Underlying all of these issues for Devin was the feeling that he was “a terrible son” who is “not good enough”. He also had the idea that showing his emotions would cause pain to other people, “that they will be hurt by it”, so until much of the way through high school he had very “dark times” isolated with his depression. He eventually did go to a psychiatrist, and was officially diagnosed with clinical depression. He was also hospitalized for a few weeks after being actively suicidal; being an in-patient “helped out” and made him feel less alone. 

As a young adult Devin moved far away from his family for a fresh start with his girlfriend in a part of the country where they can find “everything they want in their lives,” like access to nature, less stress, and friendly people. They live in an apartment with other roommates. Therapy has been helpful; Devin has learned to “speak up about things” and discovered that “keeping it in is actually a lot worse than telling someone what is going on”. He plans to continue with therapy when he has health insurance again. He tried medication, but for him it just “stopped everything” and “never worked”. Meditation really helps him out and calms him down. Devin’s girlfriend is also a big support, and the job he just got working at a store is very “self-esteem boosting”. 

Devin advises other young adults with depression to remember what things help them -- like maybe exercise, being in nature, and being around other people -- and stick with those things. Also, don’t “just put up a façade of being happy or try to fake yourself out of your emotions and think your emotions aren’t needed or wanted by others, because the more you hold everything in the more it’s going to get worse… definitely expressing your stress and your emotions that is something you should do”. 


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