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

Natasha

Female
Age at interview: 20
Age at diagnosis: 19

Brief outline: Natasha (age 18) grew up in a small-town religious family. At college she was lonely and started skipping classes. Upon failing a class, she was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety. Medication and counseling, as well as having friends, have helped.

Background: Natasha is a student at a large university who lives in a dorm room on campus. She is African American.

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Natasha did not really suspect she had depression until entering college, but looking back, she realizes she’s had depression “for a long time.” In middle school, she remembers feeling “sort of down, like weighted down all the time”. Being on the soccer and track teams, “always around like friends and family,” and having “a pretty stable social group” helped during middle and high school. But moving from a small high school to large university “was a really rough adjustment and I think that exacerbated my problems”.

Reaching college, she did not make many friends and “was feeling down a lot”. By winter quarter, she was “really, really down and missing classes.” Failing a class made her realize that she had a problem, “because I had never like failed a class or a test or anything ever in my life”. A counselor at the psychiatric center on campus gave a “preliminary diagnosis” of depression and social anxiety disorder. She was referred to a psychiatrist who gave her the formal diagnosis and started taking Zoloft, switched to Prozac, and now to the highest dose of Wellbutrin, which is “working pretty well”. When she forgets to take her medication for a week or so, she gets “super, super down again”. Counseling was also “really helpful …I hadn’t ever really talked about my problems with depression or also my social anxiety”.

Natasha says depression and social anxiety disorder “affect each other directly all the time.” With social anxiety, “I’m not super comfortable meeting new people, that can also like trigger a depressive state”. Her triggers for depression include excessive stress, anxiety and isolation, “like if I haven’t seen my friends or family in awhile”. 

Being “queer” was another factor that “was getting me down a lot”, she says. Although her mother is accepting, her father is “the most sort of Conservative Christian of the two” so they have not discussed that subject yet. Connecting with queer people and people who also have mental illnesses is “a good thing” that helps her be more open to new people. Natasha says she’s “managing pretty well now”. Her medications are under control, and she is feeling a lot better about her “social life and myself in general so I’m more in a calm sort of stable state so I don’t get super down a lot.” Overall, finding people “I’m like really, really comfortable with has been the most important part.”

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