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


Age at interview: 28
Age at diagnosis: 26

Brief outline: Joey had some extended periods of low mood earlier in his life, but the first time he experienced serious depression was at age 25. He was stuck in patterns of socializing, drinking and minimal self-care that worked well for him while in college, but pulled him down in later years. Therapy, adopting more functional life skills, and regular contact with other people have been the biggest help.

Background: Joey lives in an apartment in an artists’ building in an urban area near where he had gone to college. He works part time in retail stores and is a musician. He is White.

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Depression runs in Joey’s family and his mom had it while he was growing up, so he was aware of it from an early age. Before graduating from college, though, Joey never felt like his periods of being down or just not being an optimist were a big deal. The depression that “slowly crept in like after college” was different. Nothing he could think of sounded like fun, he no longer believed anything good was possible, and he was treating himself “like crap” by not eating well, cleaning up his apartment, or exercising. In addition, every thought he had in his head “was a negative thought”. He was hanging around with the same friends he had made in college, but without the structure and sense of “working for something” that were integral to being in school, the pattern of getting together, drinking beer and complaining became severely depressing. Unlike other times when he felt low and it resolved on its own, this time things got worse the more Joey “ignored the feeling”. 

Joey’s family lives a long drive away, but they kept in good touch with Joey. With their encouragement during visits and on the phone, Joey came to realize something serious was going on and he needed to get some help. He went to his doctor, who practices holistic medicine, and things got better pretty quickly. He visited the doctor regularly to check in, and together they focused on improving very concrete self-care practices like having regular meals, changing sheets on the bed, and other “grown-up” things he somehow “hadn’t gotten the memo” about doing. Knowing his doctor would be checking in on these things at regular intervals made a big difference in his ability to “get some things together”. He also stopped being unemployed and got a job working at a store, which put him in regular contact with other people and helped a lot because “talking to people is good” even if they are strangers.

Joey took medication for six months, and believes it was one of the things that helped him to get out of bad depression and become “more productive”. At the same time, he felt like when he was on medication “there was some edge that was gone”, and his emotional spectrum became constricted. He weaned himself off medication and is doing fine without it so far. Making music is really important to Joey, and he is trying to spend time doing it every day. He feels like “insane modern society,” with its fast pace, technological focus, and need for multi-tasking, is something he is “not good at… at all”. However, he is coping well, and feels like “for the most part” he is “over the mountain” of depression and unlikely to “fall back into the darkness at least any time soon”.

Other young adults with depression should definitely talk to a professional and their loved ones, Joey advises. They should also realize that “it’s a solvable problem… You don’t have to feel shitty for the rest of your life…. It’s definitely going to take longer than you want it to take… and maybe you’re not going to feel perfect right at the gate, but it can get better”. For Joey, leaning “to be proactive in taking care of myself and like running my own life” was a critical part of feeling better. Now that he is feeling better, Joey is motivated to help other people “in the midst of a depression because that sucks” and is demoralizing but he knows healing is possible.


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