Young Adult Mental Health & Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

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Common Questions About Young Adult Mental Health Answered

Reading Time: 6 minutes

These days, young adults are speaking up more about their mental health. They’re attending therapy more than older generations. They’re opening up to their friends, families, bosses, coworkers, and professors about their mental health struggles.

As we come to understand more and more what’s at the root of young adult mental health issues, it’s imperative that we take that knowledge and use it to support our young people. They are the future. We need them to be happy and healthy.

Key Takeaways

  • Many diagnosable mental illnesses begin in late adolescence/early young adulthood.
  • Researchers have identified some of the reasons for the rising rates of young adult mental health problems.
  • Social media can affect young people’s mental health by causing low self-esteem via comparison with others.
  • Parents, friends, college administrators, supervisors, and coworkers can all be allies to help young adults manage their mental health.

How Does Mental Health Affect Young Adults?

Many young adults who struggle with mental health or have a diagnosed mental illness don’t know where to turn. Some may have been trying to cope with mental health issues for years. Others may have newly diagnosed conditions that started in young adulthood. For young adults struggling with mental health problems, moving forward with their lives can be a challenge.

Some young people in early adulthood may deal with severe mental illnesses and mental health disorders, including eating disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, and other mental illnesses. A mental health condition can be debilitating if young adults don’t seek help from a mental health professional.

Young adult mental health challenges can make young adulthood much harder than it already is. Life as a young person is hard enough, but when young adults struggle with a mental illness or have mental health symptoms, it can feel nearly impossible to get through the day.

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Do Young Adults Have Lower Well-Being Than Other Generations?

Young people who fall in the Gen Z category are twice as likely to have mental health issues than Baby Boomers. They’re also two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder than people in the Gen X and Baby Boomer generations. That said, it’s difficult to know whether young adults actually have worse mental health than other generations, or if they’re just more willing to talk about it and seek treatment as the social stigma around mental health decreases.

That said, researchers have identified a number of reasons for the rising rates of young adult mental health problems today, including:

  • Negative effects of social media and technology addiction
  • High levels of loneliness among this age group
  • Anxiety about global issues like politics and climate change
  • Less exposure to nature and more time indoors looking at screens
  • The repercussions of pandemic closures and isolation on their ability to launch into an independent life and satisfying career

Know the Facts

48% of young adults had mental health symptoms, as reported in 2022 by the Journal of Adolescent Mental Health.

What are the Most Common Mental Health Disorders Among Young Adults?

Some of the most common mental health conditions among young adults are schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder and other mood disorders, and major depressive disorder (MDD). While MDD can have an age of onset (AoO) at any time of life, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder tend to have an AoO of young adulthood. These young adult mental health conditions may lead to suicidal thoughts, which always need to be taken seriously.

Mental illnesses don’t discriminate and can be diagnosed at any time throughout a person’s life. However, mental health symptoms may not appear until a person is in college. An example of this is a young person being diagnosed with an eating disorder as a college student. Universities are providing more mental health resources for college students to get the help they need.

It’s so important that mental health services are available to young people in early adulthood, through college counseling centers, online therapy, and residential or outpatient treatment programs. Mental healthcare has a long way to go, but the more parents of young people get involved and allow them to talk about their mental health challenges, the better off this generation of young people will be.

15 Signs of Mental Health Concerns in Young Adults

There are a number of signs of mental health concerns in young adults that parents, partners, friends, and family members need to watch out for. Here are some red flags that indicate a young person needs support with their mental health:

  1. Isolation and withdrawal
  2. Drastic change in appetite
  3. Problems with sleeping
  4. Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  5. Decrease in self-care and grooming
  6. Using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate
  7. Moodiness
  8. Self-harming behaviors
  9. Changes in eating behavior and drastic weight loss or gain
  10. Aggression and anger
  11. Low self-esteem
  12. Paranoia
  13. Hopelessness or expressing feelings of worthlessness
  14. Extreme anxiety and worry
  15. Abandoning friends

How Does Social Media Affect Young Adult Mental Health?

Social media has become extremely problematic as its popularity has grown. An increasing body of research illuminates the negative impact of social media on mental health in young adults. Young people are consuming huge amounts of content in a day, much of which has been heavily edited and filtered.

Social media isn’t real life, but young people may not know that. Hence, they scroll through social media platforms and compare themselves and their lives to the highly curated content. This increases low self-esteem and can lead to negative thought patterns. For young people who create content, their self-worth becomes tied to how many likes and views they’re getting. As a result, they feel pressured to appear a certain way, which creates additional negative mental health consequences.

A wealth of evidence suggests higher levels of social media use are associated with symptoms of anxiety, symptoms of depression, decreased psychological well-being, lower self-esteem, psychological distress, and loneliness.

JMIR Mental Health

How Can We Reduce Stigma Around Mental Illness?

Many young adults avoid receiving help because they fear the stigma attached to needing help with their mental health. Young adult mental health issues can be challenging to treat because many young adults may not be aware that they need help, or may be hiding their struggles. Or they don’t know how to access the mental health help they desperately need.

Therapy and therapeutic programs are the best ways to treat mental health conditions for young adults. Qualified mental health professionals are trained to work with young adults to help them address new diagnoses, deal with their parents in positive ways, find autonomy, and learn to advocate for themselves.

Another way to improve young adult mental health is simply to talk about it. If society can remove the stigma through continued education and advocacy, young adults won’t feel the need to hide their struggles. They might feel freer and more empowered to get the mental healthcare they need.

What Can We Each Do to Help Young Adults with Their Mental Health?

There’s a lot that parents, employers, and friends can do to help young adults with their mental wellness. Parents have a big influence over their kids, regardless of how old the child is. Check in with your young adult child and ask questions about their mental health. Talk to them about what’s going on in their lives, listen, and don’t judge. The more they feel they can open up to you, the more they’ll trust you with the tough stuff.

At work, there are plenty of things supervisors and coworkers can do to help young adults manage their mental health. When employees feel comfortable enough to share that they’re struggling, managers and HR can help accommodate young adults’ mental health needs. An example would be having conversations around deadlines. Some people who struggle with depression, for example, work better with a strict deadline rather than an open one.

Friends can also help their young adult friends when it comes to their mental health. We recommend that young adults find a trusted friend or two to confide in about how they’re doing. It can make all the difference in the world just knowing that someone knows you’re struggling and cares about you. Here’s how to talk to a friend about their mental health.

Young adult mental health discussion

Treatment for Young Adult Mental Health at Newport Institute

At Newport Institute, we use an integrated approach to healing young adult mental health issues. We treat the whole person through the highest-quality clinical and medical care, as well as experiential and life skills modalities. We set our young adults up for success, whether they’re in our residential or outpatient programs.

At Newport Institute, we don’t just treat symptoms. We help young people get to the root of their anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or other issues, by addressing underlying trauma and attachment wounds. And we tailor our treatment to each individual young adult that walks through our doors, because no two people are the same, even if they’re dealing with the same diagnosis.

Young adult treatment at Newport Institute helps young people and their families manage difficult emotions, improve communication skills, and build healthy coping tools. We strengthen the whole family system, not just the young adult in treatment. Our young adult treatment programs help rebuild parent-child bonds, restoring trust and family harmony.

What Young Adults Gain in Our Treatment Programs

Young adults in Newport Institute treatment programs gain lifelong benefits, including:

  • Healthy coping skills for dealing with the inevitable stress and challenges of today’s world
  • Support in using their voices and opinions for what they believe in
  • Tools for building self-esteem, self-worth, and resilience
  • Stronger relationships with family
  • A supportive network of peers that stays connected through our Alumni Program

Have questions about mental health treatment for young adults? Contact us for more information and a free young adult mental health assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mental Health in Young Adults

  • What are five common mental health issues in young people?
  • What is the biggest psychological issue for young adults?
  • What age does mental illness peak?
  • What is the root cause of mental illness?
  • Can mental illness go away?

J Adolesc Health. 2022 Jun; 70(6): 985–988.

JMIR Ment Health. 2022 Apr; 9(4): e33450.

Mental Health / March 2, 2023

Newport Institute

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