View Full Version : Dealing with Young Adult Stress and Depression

01-05-14, 01:06 AM
As a person that is or has been a young adult (early 20's), how did you deal with the stress and problems that come with this time?

I'm really interested in what your thoughts and experiences are. This is valuable for me because I don't have any kind of role-model or someone to talk to about this right now. Any suggestions and advice about my situation is also appreciated :)

Some context (short): I'm feeling depressed having to deal with this transition because of ADHD symptoms, past failures, family-life, and social problems. I've tried out many different treatment options and strategies. Despite this, I'm still having trouble with many of the same problems. I want to try something new out or at least reaffirm that I'm on the right track.

Long version:
I feel like I'm struggling and flailing about trying to get through my life right now. I'm a 20 year old male that's finishing college.

On paper, things look like they're going well right now: I'm an "A" student, usually have a job, have a few close friends and lots of acquaintances, am an OK tennis and racquetball player (do regional and national tournaments), hold a few leadership positions (fraternity, IEEE, sports team), and have a healthy lifestyle (sleep, diet, exercise). But I actually feel unfulfilled, lonely, and confused.

Some of this is likely caused by my main ADHD symptoms: insatiability, mental fatigue, and hyper-focus. I actually wish -- and know -- that I *could* do so much more than I do now. I have so many projects that I wanted to do, yet I could never complete them. Whenever I try to be consistent it's like I mentally hit a wall and get inextricably exhausted. It's like I'm a couch potato that keeps trying to run a marathon; I mentally collapse after only 10 minutes of running. It literally feels painful when I'm fatigued.

How do you deal with your ADHD symptoms, so that you can take on adult responsibilities?

I still function reasonably well despite this. I can come up with strategies on a dime and am personable/assertive enough to work things out with people. It's still a constant battle and, despite everything I try to do, things still fall through the cracks.

For example: this last semester I missed my Physics test. It was worth 20% of my grade, and I got a 0. I have a calendar and reminder system. I had other systems in place to prevent this. It's just that this specific situation resulted in a number of coincidental, repeated attention lapses that I had no system (at the time) to prevent. I got depressed for weeks because of this mistake. I ended up working something out with my Dean to retake the course and replace my grade; however, it's situations like this that are so difficult. I feel so alone because I couldn't tell most of my friends about this. It's so preposterous if you don't understand ADHD.

How do you deal with disastrous attention-lapses like this happening?

My family-life is difficult. I have a brother with high-functioning Autism and constant clinical depression. It gets emotionally exhausting trying to deal with him. He's part of the reason my family is so socially isolated. I still love him, however, and try to do what I can to help. I'm basically a younger brother that functions as an older brother who's almost like a parent. Besides my brother, my parents are generally emotionally unavailable. They are financially available, but that's not the same thing. Money is nice; however, it's no substitute for a hug or being emotionally available. My parents often displace their frustration from my brother and their personal issues on me. It often feels cold, lonely, and depressing back home.

As an adult, how do you comfortably distance yourself from family and become independent?

Aside from family life, my social life is streaky and confusing. First off, I have trouble with keeping in touch with people and checking-in. The whole concept of networking seems overwhelming. I don't know how I could keep in touch with so many people consistently.

How are you able to be socially consistent and stay in touch with people?

Second, I have a close friend that is bipolar and acts hot-cold towards me. It's exhausting because I genuinely like her as a friend, but keep getting burned because she has dramatic mood swings. For example, she can spontaneously "feel" romantically interested. Yet, she does not assert what she wants or is thinking. This leads to awkward situations where I'm unexpectedly hit-on and get lots of uncomfortable attention. Sometimes I start liking it and then get somewhat interested. I then get ignored -- sometimes insulted -- and find out later that *I* was supposed to spell out that I'm "romantically-interested" in her during this time (which I was up until the cold phase). It feels so childish.

I wonder if the only reason I stick around as a friend is because of my ADHD. I somehow think things will get better when the same problems arise. It's not a love kind of issue, I just want to have a good platonic or romantic relationship. We're decent friends now after a lot of verbal heavy-lifting. It just gets tiring dealing with both of our issues (I have plenty to work on, too).

How do you problem-solve your friendships and romantic relationships? When is it worth working out problems; conversely, when is it worth it to let people go?

Third, I recently came to terms with the fact that I'm bisexual. This is a messy identity because of all the stereotypes and misinformation that comes with the label. In short, yes I am attracted to and could pursue a relationship with EITHER a man or a woman. I have no doubt about that last statement. There's plenty of discrimination against this identity as well. For example, I'm actually quite loyal and am not interested in casual sex; conversely, the stereotype is often the opposite. My family is to some degree homophobic, so this wouldn't go over too well sharing it with them. This actually isn't something I'm sad about. I'm reasonably concerned about the legitimate problems that having this sexual preference entails. I have only met one bisexual guy before, so I don't have any role models here either. This is more confusing for me and something to be mindful of.

If you have any experience with this preference, I would appreciate hearing your story and how you have gotten comfortable with it.

Things I have done to better depression and ADHD symptoms:

keep up healthy lifestyle habits
(helps - foundational factor)

take medication
(helps - takes a while to find right combo)

ADHD coaching
(unhelpful - last 3 coaches too disorganized)

study ADHD and depression
(helps - implemented ~10 books)

talk/psychoanalytic therapy
(was helpful - I just write and meditate now)

Cognitive Behavior Therapy [CBT]
(helps - have to find the right therapist)

write out thoughts and feelings
(helps - what I'm doing right now)

1 year of Landmark college
(marginally helpful - didn't transfer well to UMass)


use class accommodations
(helps - allows me to get A's if I put in the effort)

talk to depressed people about depression
(unhelpful - solutions to issues are better)

That's it. Thank you for reading this if you got to this point. Sometimes it helps to write everything out. I hope this also helps you out :)

01-07-14, 01:09 AM
Well you sound like a very intelligent and well accomplished person.

It seems like your emotional troubles are directly related to the reality of the various social factors operating in your life. Ie, it would seem that if you wish to change how you feel, you must address the reality of the social situations around you in your life.

BTW being bisexual is totally cool. I know various men and women who are bisexual. I admit for some reason I am no keen on the idea of men who are purely gay, but when they are bisexual strangely it does not bother me :)

To some degree, such as with your parents being emotionally unavailable, it seems like you need more social support, affection and validation in your life.

I am not sure that it is fair that you should have to take excessive responsibility for your brother, if you want to share, you could explain specifically how his behavior causes a problem etc. Is he intellectually capable of looking after himself?

Also if home is cold, lonely and depressing, I mean is it not your right to move out and move on in life?

Alternatively you might want to directly communicate (perhaps via a letter) to your parents how you feel. Some people are capable of change, perhaps they can improve.

Overall, I am quite honestly impressed with how you seem to be going in life, except for your emotional unhappiness. You seem very capable, and all your emotional issues seem entirely understandable to me.

In regards to social networking, jesus, you don't want a huge amount of people, you want to concentrate on a select handful of good people.

Also in regards to ADHD, sometimes a combination of meds (such as a stimulant and something else) can provide the best symptoms relief.

My overall feeling from your post is you are moderately socially isolated, and need some good support, understanding and companionship of the right people. Perhaps changing your living situation may be in your interest, I can't tell from this information :)

If it makes you feel better, having read what you wrote, you come across as a nice and caring guy. Your stuck in a social sandpit a bit.

01-08-14, 12:18 AM
Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Modafinilguy.

Your points were helpful, and I do appreciate your support. I tried to respond to your questions in order from the top-down.

It is difficult for me to give a short response because it is such a emotionally-charged conflict. There is plenty going on here. I included my questions in bold, so you can easily skim through and answer them if my post is too long. There are also headings for each section :p

Meeting New People and Creating Positive Relationships

Addressing my social reality, like you said, seems like my first real step here. I think you are right that I could use more social support, affection, and validation. It also seems like it comes down to me having the opportunity to meet new people and be in a better environment. In the meantime, I have worked on being more assertive about my needs and collaborative with people. I am focused on strengthening what friendships I do have.

Meeting new people seems to be a good way to get more support. For the lack of affection and validation, there are likely deeper causes for this.

They seem to be that I am stuck in caregiver mode or come across as self-sufficient, so people assume that I am all set emotionally. One of my good friends once told me that I need to stop focusing on taking care of people and start pushing my emotional needs more. However, it can be a hard balance. During my last relationship, I had to break it off because my girlfriend could not handle taking care of me for once. It was an 8 month relationship where, in retrospect, it felt like I was more of a parent than a "partner." Most of my relationships went downhill whenever I started asserting my needs. Maybe at first I came across as too strong or needy, but now I might have the balance skewed too much towards the apathetic end. Sometimes I wonder if the people that push so emphatically to "help" others are actually the ones that need more help.


I probably started acting in a caregiver role and self-sufficiently because of my brother and how I lived when I was younger. Most of my parents' focus was and currently is shifted towards him. Asperger's results in severe issues with social/emotional adaption. It often causes extreme anxiety problems, which it was with my brother. This resulted in my family having to leave many social occasions with friends and other family because of him having outbursts or meltdowns. Tantrums are normal for young children, but with my brother it did not stop when he got older. It only has slowly decreased in frequency and severity. Unfortunately, my brother's condition also resulted in him coming down with clinical depression.

His behavior currently causes problems by preventing my family from going out. Even now, it is hard for us to do anything without him getting upset because of his anxiety, crying, or "shutting-down." He is 22. Right now, he is stuck in a negative spiral, and he often refuses to listen to my parents about certain things. As a result of his isolation and everything, he has a debilitating knowledge gap of how the social/emotional world works. He is capable of doing all the necessary tasks to take care of himself; however, he is currently incapable of coping with the "real world," stress, and managing his emotional health.

I often have to help reassure him and help him with any problem-solving. It sometimes seems like I take the role of an older brother, psychiatrist, and life-skills coach ... I actually had to leave for 30 minutes while typing this to do just that. He started having a meltdown about how he was a "loser" and how he will "never be independent." My dad quickly gave up trying to talk to him, did not say a word to me when he came home, and walked away to watch TV. My brother was upset that he could not accomplish his goals because he "kept forgetting." I tried to calm him down and explain how he can print out a list and place it on an unavoidable spot (his computer screen). He then raged and claimed that there was no hope and that the situation was "impossible."

The most stressful part about this for me is that, once my parents get old enough, I will have to be responsible for my brother. I realize that I do not have to be, but I love him so I want to. It is a complicated familial love with little reciprocation from him. The unfortunate reality is also that my brother does not really have anyone else to turn to. He will likely have a very difficult time coping once that situation happens, too.

Talking With Parents

I have tried talking to both of my parents about the situations described above. My mom genuinely cares (she can be warm and helpful) but often ends up being passive or too exhausted; my dad seems to want little to do with me and is also exhausted. He often displaces his displeasure with himself and life on me: I am apparently "selfish" and "only care about myself." This is coming from a man who touts Ayn Rand's Objectivist novels as "common sense" and some of the "best novels." He often deals with stress by walking away for situations; in a sense, he tries to ignore them and escape. Apparently, trying to understand him or collaborate means that one acts like a "whiny child" or a "slimy lawyer." When I try to work something out with him, he often uses the "I'm paying for your college, so you must do as I say" card and the "I can throw you out of the house" card. My hands are tied because of this. It is difficult to talk with my parents and figure out solutions.

I do have many faults; I also accept responsibility for the many mistakes I have made. Many of my ADHD symptoms can be disruptive and upsetting. There are plenty of situations and tasks that I have not handled well, and I can understand why people might be angry at me for it. At the very least, I try to discuss my problems with people and look for mutually-beneficial solutions that I can act on. I will definitely consider writing a letter to my parents, Modafinilguy, thank you for the suggestion.

In short, I have tried talking to my parents, tried different strategies, and learned from my mistakes -- it has not helped much.

How were you able to talk and negotiate with your parents as a young adult? What enabled you to become financially independent?


I have wanted to move-out for years. I tried to find ways so that I do not have to go back home over school breaks; for example, studying abroad, internships, and research experiences. I managed to get a study abroad in over winter break. The problem with everything else is that, according to engineering career services, I need more coursework (I am a Sophomore).

Applications are also one of the hardest things for me to complete. I would rather take a 3 hour engineering final or write a 10 page paper than fill-out an application. It requires a lot of organizing, planning, juggling due-dates, and finding disorganized information, all without the novelty and interest that other projects have. My biggest difficulty with ADHD is that I fatigue easily with organizational tasks. I have tried asking family for help with this, but I am apparently on my own with this. Completing applications are very much a personal ADHD problem.

I honestly do not care too much about what I do, so long as I can live somewhere else. I tried seeing if I could get an apartment over my breaks, but it is apparently "too expensive" for my family. I am using quotes because my family could afford it, but chose not help with that. This is frustrating because it is so difficult for me to function well at home (my parents know this). I am trying to save up money to afford an apartment.

How was everyone here able to move-out of their parents' house? What did you do to find a place to stay at?

Other Answers to Questions

Yes, maybe I am over-thinking the networking part. It is probably career anxiety on my part. I am so focused on getting an engineering job, so I do not need to live back home and can support my family when necessary.

For medication, I have cycled through about 7 to 8 medications throughout 2.5 years of being diagnosed with ADHD and Depression. I was able to get help from friends to observe the side-effects and benefits. After a lot of trial-and-error, I ended up sticking to Buproprion (Wellbutrin) XL 300 mg. It helps manage my depression well and may also help with ADHD symptoms.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, I am much happier whenever I have been away from my family. This is a sensitive topic to bring up with them, yet it is definitely something worth pursuing with or without their consent.

I will certainly take into consideration any suggestions or comments any of you add. Thanks again! :)