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


Age at interview: 21
Age at diagnosis: 14

Brief outline: Sophie (age 22) was a shy child who received therapy within and outside school. At 14, she was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy and being mentored to become a fashion designer cured her depression.

Background: Sophie is a practicing fashion designer and a college senior studying fashion design. She lives with her parents and brother. She is Caucasian and of Mexican descent.

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Sophie first started to feel depressed in middle school. She “didn’t know it was depression …but I didn’t really want to eat anymore. …I really hated the night time …it just made me feel even worse”. She spent a lot of time with her middle school guidance counselor. “Everything just seemed amplified”, she says, “I would just start randomly crying in a class …I didn’t know what was wrong”. She didn’t want anybody to see her crying, except for one special friend who, “when she saw that I was upset she would help me go to the hallway and take me to the guidance counselor. It was really nice of her”. Sophie now regrets that while depressed she distanced herself from a lot of people and “lost a lot of friends”.

Before Sophie went to high school her mom lined up support by contacting the school psychologist, who not only provided counseling but also referred Sophie to an outside therapist for a formal diagnosis. Sophie said she had “mixed depression and anxiety and also social anxiety”. The first two years of high school “were the worst and after that it was just kind of like waves”. She got weekly therapy outside of school for over a year and as many sessions as she needed with the school psychologist throughout high school. She managed to get through her week by having “something to look forward to”. At first it was, “just looking forward to the weekends, to being at home, …a time to be alone and having a break". Ultimately Sophie says her weekend internship with a clothing designer is what got her out of her depression. It really took “my mind off of everyday life”. This opportunity aligned her hobbies, developed her talents and self-confidence, led to her successful career path, and gave Sophie a purpose in life. Learning how to see something through from her own concept to final product was exciting and she looked forward to each weekend when her parents drove her to her internship. 

Sophie credits cognitive behavioral therapy with giving her the skills, which she still uses, to constructively manage her negative thoughts. By the time Sophie got to college she no longer had depression. In describing a bout with anxiety, due to being way overloaded in her second year, she says, “I could identify what the stressors were, so once I removed them from my life I was okay”. Fashion design is a very competitive field and Sophie has come a long way from the fragile girl crying in middle school. Using strategies learned in therapy, she keeps in mind that “If something doesn’t go right it’s not the end of the world… It’s okay. There are different ways to get there”. It is also important, she says, to recognize when there is “nothing you can really do to control” things, and if “you just go with the flow, you’ll be happier”. On a recent trip to Europe, “There were a lot of things that happened on that trip that would have just completely set me off four years ago.” That experience, she says, “reaffirmed that I’m capable” of turning around “a situation that can be really stressful” by “thinking logically through it instead of resorting to emotion and panicking.”

Relationships are important to Sophie. Her immediate family is and has been a great source of support. She has made a few close friends while in college. She credits her ability to make friends and interact with a variety of people to her fashion designing. Soon after posting pictures of her dresses online, photographers wanted to use “my dresses for their photo-shoots. I guess seeing the positive reception of the dress really helped bring me out of my shell a bit”. She was just seventeen, and notes that “being on set for photo-shoots” meant that she was working with not just the “photographer and model” but, “it’s them plus makeup”. Se also learned to roll with different and unexpected situations for each photo shoot. “In the past”, she says, “That would have totally freaked me out”. According to Sophie, “collaborating with people in that industry taught me to be open to different sorts of people, some who are really loud” and that used to “ freak me out.” 


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