From starting a first job to family planning, young women in their 20s and 30s often face a number of exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, changes. It also may be a time during which certain mental illnesses, like anxiety and depression, manifest.
"This is a time of life where women in particular are on a ticking clock to make a decision as to how they wish to spend the rest of their lives," said psychologist Dr. Michele Barton, director of clinical health at Psychology Life Well.
And of course, that stress can take a toll. As young women grow up, they may experience developmental and hormonal changes that can trigger issues, too. Even undergoing everyday life experiences during which they are exposed to traumas or changing environmental situations may be a trigger for a disorder.
Below we list 8 mental health issues that may appear in a woman’s 20s and 30s, and how to manage them.
1. Anxiety Disorders
We want to be clear: anxiety is a big deal and can have a huge impact on your life. If symptoms of an anxiety disorder start appearing in your 20s or 30s, it may have something to do with the pressures of adult life. Symptoms may include: fatigue, irritability, sleep problems and difficulty controlling worry.
"Once you are independent both physically and financially, it can be difficult dealing with responsibilities," said NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. "Having to work, pay bills, handle relationships, and take care of yourself can be overwhelming and lead to anxiety."
Receiving an anxiety diagnosis from a clinician is the first step in navigating some of the initial triggers of the disorder. It may be challenging for young women in a relationship to share the details of their diagnosis with a partner. There are a number of ways to approach the situation and begin a conversation to alleviate that stress.
2. Bipolar Disorder
You may know that genes play a role in the development of bipolar disorder, but did you know that the stresses of young adulthood can trigger the onset?
While this disorder affects men and women equally, hormones may make the experience different for young women. It can be difficult to diagnose this disease, but understanding and identifying the symptoms is the first step to receiving proper treatment.
Bipolar disorder manifests itself in two ways: depression and mania. By knowing the signs of these two manifestations, a young woman can seek proper treatment by consulting her clinician.
3. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Did you know that if you’re going to develop BPD, there’s a high chance it will set in at some point in your early 20s? Therapist Amy Moreira, LMHC shares that this is when young women are going through a number of social changes at work, in school and in relationships.
BPD is a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image and behavior. Symptoms may include: intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that can last hours or even days.
If you have this disorder, you’ll notice its symptoms affecting many areas of your life.
Symptoms can range from chronic feelings of emptiness to engaging in self-harming behaviors.
Due to lifestyle changes and stress, depression is a common mental health issue among young women. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it’s also more prevalent in women than in men.
The severity and frequency of symptoms differ from person to person. Symptoms may include: irritability, feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities and thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
With early detection, diagnosis and a treatment plan that includes medication, psychotherapy and healthy lifestyle choices, people can and do get better.
5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
While ADHD usually appears and is diagnosed at a young age, it can also show symptoms later in life.
“Many women are diagnosed in their early 20s because their ... inability to focus, disorganization, introversion and forgetfulness become more noticeable to themselves and others as they become more independent in college and at work," said Moreira.
A study shared at the 2017 U.S. Psych Congress showed that almost two-thirds of adults in the U.S. who self-reported ADHD were not pharmacologically treated, even though they were highly affected by their symptoms.
These findings illuminate a deep mental health issue in our society: the underdiagnosis of ADHD in adults.
6. Postpartum Depression
Having a baby can be an exciting time in a couple’s lives. However, the process can also trigger some mental health concerns.
"Aside from experiencing postpartum complications, such as depression, anxiety, or birth trauma, there are also experiences with infertility, pregnancy loss and reproductive complications (PCOS, endometriosis, etc.) that can crop up during this time of life," said Crystal Clancy, MA, LMFT, owner of Iris Reproductive Mental Health.
Postpartum depression may occur in women who have a history of depression, anxiety or trauma. If you have a history of mental illness, it’s crucial to tell your doctor if you and your partner are trying to get pregnant.
As adult stressors increase, substance dependence and misuse can become a problem for young women. If you often turn to self-soothing methods like meditation or exercise, but find that those aren’t working for you, don’t be afraid to seek help.
Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that isn’t discussed often. It may be scary to think about, but this disorder can manifest during a woman’s 20s and 30s.
"Between the ages of 20 and 30 is when most females have their schizophrenic break," said psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez. "Symptoms include bizarre behavior, delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, and thoughts of persecution. There are actually six distinct types of schizophrenia ... and due to the nature of these symptoms, sufferers do need treatment to help them with reality testing."
If these symptoms sound familiar to you, it’s important to speak with your clinician or therapist about treatment options to help manage the disorder.
These are just a few mental health issues that women in their 20s and 30s may face, but there are a number of organizations dedicated to providing help, care and resources for people living with a mental illness. If you recognize any of these symptoms, genetic testing, like Genomind’s Genecept Assay®, may be able to help, too.
The Genecept Assay® is a genetic cheek swab test that looks at key genes in your DNA that can affect how you respond to medication for certain mental illnesses. It identifies patient-specific genetic markers that can indicate to your clinician which treatments are likely to work as intended, have no effect or cause adverse effects.
Learn more about mental health issues that affect young women here.