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


Age at interview: 25
Age at diagnosis: 18

Brief outline: Jacob, 25, noticed symptoms in early high school and was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety in his first year of college. He takes medication and is about to resume therapy to continue improving his work and romantic relationships.

Background: Jacob is a software engineer at a large company. He lives with his girlfriend and a cat. He is White.

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Jacob first noticed symptoms of anxiety and depression in early high school. Though he thought that everyone experienced them, he felt he did “not fit anywhere”. He wasn’t “necessarily sad all the time”; but had chronic “dissatisfaction with where I was and what I was doing”. A “well regarded” student and athlete, he says, “I would go to lunch with people and laugh and all that stuff and I would go back afterwards and whoa! That was a thing that happened but it didn’t really mean a whole lot to me”. Jacob figured out how to mask his feelings with a chronic smile. “If you're this kid who just walks around with this stern face all the time, people are gonna kind of wonder what's going on. But no one's gonna question a kid who's smiling all the time”. He was very introverted and so his parents didn’t pick up on anything when he sequestered himself in his bedroom. 

Despite having a very supportive family and friends Jacob didn't tell anybody about his feelings while in high school. In part, he wanted to protect his family, “My mom in particular is very sensitive, she is the type of person who will blame everything on herself”. Jacob also felt that “Depression was sort of this loaded word that you sorta just kept to yourself”. Because he had no resources and his parents did not know he had a problem, he was unable to get help. But at college, he “felt a little more independent” and sought counseling, where he was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety. In therapy, mostly prefers a cognitive behavioral approach. When he finally told his parents, about 3 years post diagnosis, they were very supportive. Jacob also has told the people close to him. 

Jacob still struggles with a “futurist” orientation -- that happiness will arrive with he reaches the next milestone. “I thought college would make me a real person. And then after I got to college, I thought, well, once I'm self-sufficient, I have a job or a steady income … then my real life would start. And then after that…once I find a serious relationship, long-term relationship then that would be the thing. I have all those things now and I'm still in the same situation of ‘okay what's next, now what do I do?’” 

Jacob now takes medication and is using strategies he learned in therapy, entailing doing social things that are just outside his comfort zone. “You kind of just work your way up until suddenly you do all these things that you didn’t think you would be able to do before”, he says. Jacob also credits his personal drive, especially related to academics, to overcome his lack of motivation. “I've always sort of been that way. …I like to learn new things and try things. … I get sort of antsy and agitated when I'm not doing anything or learning something. … It basically is what helps me combat depression, I think, if I didn’t have that I think I would be in a much worse situation then I'm currently in”. 


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