Here is an interesting article - an interview really, by Hanson O'Haver of Johanna Jarco, Ph.D. and postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute for Mental Health. Ms. Jarco touches on why so many mental health disorders emerge during adolescence and early 20s and what are some things that folks can do about it.
Basically, while some mental health disorders are strongly genetic, like Schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, many others, such as depression and anxiety, are a function of our environment and our ability to adapt/cope to changes in that environment. Doctors and scientists used to think that the human brain was pretty much fully developed after early childhood, but we've now realized that our brains continue to develop in significant ways through adolescence and even beyond. During that period, we experience some pretty significant environmental changes - we graduate high school and/or college, we leave our parent's home and financial umbrella, we enter the work force, maybe we lose a job, we begin and end many new relationships, we move to new states or even countries, we have kids of our own. The bottom line is that our environments are changing like crazy in our early 20s and sometimes that turmoil can precipitate mental health issues if we aren't prepared to adapt and change with it.
One great takeaway from the interview is the fact that because mental health illness can be influenced by our relationship with our environment, we can also change ourselves and our environment to maintain and even improve our mental health. We are not destined to misery by our DNA. One of the ways we can help ourselves is to seek help early. Between the short-term cost and the social stigma, addressing our mental wellness issues early on can be intimidating, but in the long run, it is certainly worth it. I know I would have saved myself a great deal of suffering if I had connected sooner with someone that understood anxiety and had been through it. If you're interested in anxiety coaching, check out my website.