Wilderness Therapy for Young Adults with Depression
About half of people who have been diagnosed with depression first recognize signs by the time they are 14. By the age of 18, this number is more than 75%. The longer an individual has experienced depression without learning skills to manage the symptoms, the harder it can be to change the patterns they have developed to cope. Young adults are particularly vulnerable to the effects of depression on their ability to engage in work, school, and other responsibilities as they have not developed the skills to regulate their emotions and advocate for themselves.
The guide is meant to be comprehensive, but as such, not every section will be applicable to everyone. Instead, we invite you to click on the links in the table of contents to jump to the sections that most interest you.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Young Adults
Signs and symptoms of depression may be easier to identify in young adults than in teenagers who are less emotionally aware. However, it can be difficult to distinguish adjustment issues in relation to normal challenges of young adulthood from disproportionate levels of stress and low mood.
Some signs of depression in young adults include:
- Trouble enjoying themselves when spending time with others
- Loss of interest in activities, school, or work experiences they used to enjoy
- Spending more time alone
- Feeling hopeless about future plans
- Indecisive about education and career goals
- Loss of motivation or trouble feeling a sense of accomplishment
- Experimenting with substances
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Failure to launch
What are the Causes of Depression in Young Adults?
A family history of depression is a risk factor for young adults, but there are also a number of situational factors that may trigger a depressive episode in individuals with latent depressive symptoms. When the body responds to highly stressful situations, it may naturally experience some symptoms of depression as a normal response to these triggers. However, when one’s stress response system becomes activated and they do not have the skills to self-regulate, the brain is more likely to get stuck in those depressive patterns, turning the symptoms into a depressive episode.
On a neurological level, a depressive episode, lasting two or more weeks, is marked by low levels of serotonin- a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and sleep- and norepinephrine- a neurotransmitter responsible for alertness and arousal- activity in the brain. Recent research concludes that the “chemical imbalance” hypothesis is more closely related to the strength of neural connections and levels of activity in certain areas of the brain associated with sensory processing, mood regulation, and memory rather than the neurotransmitters themselves.
How Does blueFire PulsaR Help Young Adults with Depression?
At blueFire PulsaR, individual and group therapy is just one element of our holistic therapy. We use principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, motivational interviewing, and mindfulness while processing experiences during adventure activities to help young adults recognize how their negative thinking and sense of hopelessness can be a barrier to being fully present. Personal narratives like “I can’t do it” or “there’s no point in trying” are common responses to obstacles that one faces when trying an activity for the first time.
As many young adults with depression have experienced a loss of interest in extracurricular activities and have turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like substance use and self-harm, to manage symptoms with depression, adventure activities may feel out of their comfort zone. It can be hard to feel instant gratification and stay motivated to participate. By continuing to participate in adventure activities, young adults collect evidence that their self-defeating beliefs are not entirely accurate and learn to replace unhealthy coping mechanisms with more positive activities.
Through adventure therapy, young adults learn to recognize inner and interpersonal conflict as it arises and work with the team to communicate and problem-solve together. Instead of feeling stuck and directionless, young adults begin to gain greater self-awareness, confidence, and hopefulness for the future. With this collaborative, relationship-based approach, young adults develop meaningful relationships that they carry with them once they move on to the next phase of their journey.