Young Adult Mental Health | Common Challenges That Bring Young Adults To Therapy

Psychology of young adults. young adult therapy and young adults counseling. Psychological and developmental stage of identity formation. Virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Estimated reading time: 20 minutes

So, you’re in that exciting phase between being a carefree teenager and a full-fledged adult. It’s a time filled with endless possibilities, newfound freedom, and self-discovery. But let’s face it; young adulthood can also throw some major challenges your way that can seriously mess with your mental and emotional well-being.

Therapy has become crucial for many young folks who find themselves struggling with the hurdles that come with this crazy phase of life.

In this blog post, we’re going to dig into the challenges that young adults often encounter, the ones that push them to seek therapy. We’ll shine a light on the unique concerns they face. We hope that talking about these challenges will encourage open dialogue, reduce stigma, and empower young adults to seek the support they need to thrive during this transformative stage of life. 

young adult therapy and young adults counseling. Psychological and developmental stage of identity formation. Virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Young adulthood is that exciting stage between being a carefree teenager and a full-blown adult. It’s when you’re figuring out who you are, chasing dreams, and dealing with all sorts of changes. Think 18 to 25 years old.

During this time, depending on different depending on cultural and societal factors, young adults are exploring, discovering themselves, and spreading those wings. They are going through college, internship or job hunting, trying to make their own money, thinking about their long-term plans, and diving into new relationships.

As a young adult, you’re probably faced with big decisions and newfound responsibilities. Choosing a career path, managing your finances, finding your groove in society, and shaping your own identity are all part it. This a time of building the foundations for the future, finding out what you really want, and making moves toward your dreams.

Each person’s journey through young adulthood is unique, and the challenges and opportunities they encounter shape their personal growth and development.

The Developmental Stage & Psychology of Young Adulthood

Identity Formation

Identity formation is a significant developmental stage that young adults go through as they navigate the transition from adolescence to adulthood. It is a period of self-discovery, exploration, and consolidation of personal identity. It’s a journey of figuring out who you really are and where you fit in the world, and questioning your values, beliefs, and goals.

Young adults in different cultures may seek to balance between personal aspirations and fulfilling familial or community expectations. They navigate their identities within the context of collective values, social roles, and obligations to the community.

Identity formation encompasses various aspects, including personal values, beliefs, interests, and aspirations. Young adults engage in a process of self-reflection and introspection, questioning their own identity and seeking to establish a coherent sense of self. They may examine their cultural and ethnic backgrounds, religious or spiritual beliefs, and their roles within family and society.

This stage is marked by a search for authenticity and a desire to align personal values with life choices. Young adults may experiment with different identities, try on new roles, and explore diverse experiences to determine what feels most genuine and fulfilling to them. They strive to understand their personal identity, including aspects such as career aspirations, relationships, and personal values.

 

What is young adulthood? young adult therapy and young adults counseling. Psychological and developmental stage of identity formation. Virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Autonomy & independence

What is autonomy and independence in young adulthood? young adult therapy and young adults counseling. Psychological and developmental stage of identity formation. Virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Autonomy and independence are key developmental aspects of young adulthood. Cultural values, norms, and social systems shape how individuals navigate and express their autonomy and independence. Young adults strive to break free from the influence and guidance of their families to varying degrees based on their culture and values. Generally speaking, they are in the process of establishing their own beliefs, values, and goals. They are making decisions that align with their own desires and aspirations.

In this stage, young adults seek to assert their individuality while forming connections and relationships outside the family unit. They forge friendships, engage in romantic relationships, and establish a social support network. These relationships provide opportunities for personal growth, self-expression, and the development of interpersonal skills.

Young adults take on responsibilities such as managing finances, finding housing, and maintaining their physical well-being. They strive to become self-sufficient, developing skills to navigate the challenges of adulthood.

Culture & The Young Adult Developmental Stage

Cultural values, norms, and social systems shape how individuals navigate identity formation and express their autonomy and independence. Inclusivity in discussing identity formation means recognizing the diversity of cultural experiences and the complexity of intersecting identities. It involves acknowledging that identities can be shaped by factors such as ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexuality, and more. Young adults engage in self-exploration, seeking to understand their personal identities while considering their cultural heritage, societal expectations, and diverse influences.

It’s also essential to recognize that cultural variations exist within individual cultures. Not all individuals within a particular culture will conform to these general patterns. Cultural factors interact with other developmental influences, such as personal experiences, family dynamics, and socioeconomic factors, to shape the expression of independence and autonomy. 

 

That being said, let’s explore how this stage is influenced by culture:

Collectivistic Cultures

In collectivistic cultures, prevalent in many Asian, African, and Latin American societies, the focus is often on the needs of the group, interdependence, and maintaining social harmony. Young adults in these cultures may seek a balance between personal aspirations and fulfilling familial or community expectations. Young adults are encouraged to consider the well-being of their families and communities, adhere to cultural values and traditions, and contribute to the greater collective.

Psychology of young adulthood in collectivistic cultures. young adult therapy and young adults counseling. Psychological and developmental stage of identity formation. Virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing
Individualistic Cultures
Psychology of young adulthood in individualistic cultures. young adult therapy and young adults counseling. Psychological and developmental stage of identity formation. Virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

In individualistic cultures, such as those in Western societies, the emphasis is on personal freedom, self-reliance, self-expression, and individual achievement. The developmental stage of independence and autonomy in these cultures often involves pursuing personal goals, making independent decisions, and asserting individual rights. Young adults are encouraged to explore their unique identities, follow their passions, and prioritize their personal desires. They may be more likely to leave their family homes earlier, pursue higher education or career opportunities, and focus on self-fulfillment.

Multicultural or Bicultural Folx

In multicultural or bicultural contexts (including American-born children of immigrant families), individuals may blend cultural values and expectations. They may experience tension between the dominant culture’s individualistic values and their family culture’s collectivistic values.

The developmental stage of independence and autonomy in these contexts can involve negotiating and integrating different cultural norms and expectations. Young adults may adapt their behavior and decision-making styles depending on the cultural context. They may experience challenges in reconciling conflicting cultural values.

Identity formation involves exploring and reconciling the different aspects of their cultural heritage. They may grapple with questions of belonging, cultural values, and personal identity. The fusion of two or more cultures provides a rich tapestry for self-discovery, but it can also present challenges as they navigate their sense of self.

Navigating the complexities of multiple cultural identities, bicultural individuals may encounter a range of experiences and emotions. They may experience a sense of not fully belonging to either culture or embrace their fluidity in cultural expression. They may confront questions about which cultural norms and values to prioritize, how to balance different traditions, and how to navigate societal expectations. This process involves introspection, self-reflection, and seek support from communities that share similar multicultural experiences.

Common challenges that bring young adults to therapy:

Identity Formation Issues

Common challenges that bring young adults to therapy. Psychology of young adults. young adult therapy and young adults counseling. Psychological and developmental stage of identity formation. Virtual counseling, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy in NYC for emotional healing

Confusion about self: 

“Who am I, really? What do I believe in?”

“Am I being authentic and true to myself in different areas of my life, or am I wearing masks to please others?”

“How do my cultural and ethnic backgrounds impact my identity?” “What aspects of my cultural background and heritage are important to me? How do they shape my identity and values?”

Lack of self-acceptance:

“I find it challenging to accept and embrace myself fully. I constantly compare myself to others and feel inadequate, which makes it difficult to form a positive sense of self.”

External validation:

“I rely on others’ opinions and approval to shape my identity. I seek validation from friends, family, or society, which makes it difficult to form a strong sense of self based on my own values and aspirations.”

Fear of judgment:

“I worry about how others perceive me and fear being judged or rejected. This fear holds me back from expressing my true self and exploring different aspects of my identity.”

Internal conflict:

“I experience internal conflicts between different aspects of myself. It feels like different parts of me are pulling in different directions, and it’s challenging to find harmony and integration.”

Career Choice Uncertainty

Uncertainty about career path:

“I feel like I’m standing at a crossroads, unsure which path to take in my career. There are so many options out there, and I find it overwhelming to figure out which one aligns with my unique set of skills, passions, and values.”

Authenticity and fulfillment:

“I yearn for a career that truly resonates with who I am as a person. I want to wake up every day feeling excited and fulfilled by the work I do, but I struggle to identify what that looks like for me.”

Fear of making the wrong choice:

“I’m haunted by the fear of making the wrong career decision. The idea of investing time and effort into something that may not bring me satisfaction or align with my long-term goals holds me back from taking decisive action.”

Pressure from external expectations:

“I feel the weight of society and family expectations on my shoulders. The pressure to pursue certain careers or follow a traditional path can make it challenging to listen to my own inner voice and forge my own unique journey.”

Overcoming self-doubt:

“Self-doubt often creeps in, making me question my abilities and worthiness for certain career paths. It’s hard to stay confident and trust myself when there are so many unknowns.”

Seeking a sense of purpose:

“I long for a career that goes beyond just paying the bills. I want my work to have meaning and purpose, to make a positive impact on the world. But finding that perfect fit feels like searching for a needle in a haystack.”

Friendships and Relationship Challenges

Difficulty forming connections:

“It’s challenging for me to establish deep and meaningful connections with others. I struggle to initiate conversations and build relationships.”

Fear of rejection:

“I’m afraid of being rejected or judged by others, so I hesitate to open up and be vulnerable in friendships or romantic relationships.”

Lack of trust:

“I find it hard to trust others, which makes it difficult for me to build and maintain healthy relationships. I constantly worry about being betrayed or hurt.”

Feeling misunderstood:

“I often feel like people don’t truly understand me or my experiences. It’s frustrating when I can’t find someone who can relate to me on a deeper level.”

Social anxiety:

“Social situations make me anxious, and I struggle with feelings of self-consciousness and inadequacy. It’s hard for me to relax and be myself around others.”

Insecurity:

“I often doubt myself and worry that I’m not interesting or likable enough for others to want to be friends with or date.”

 

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Feeling left out:

“I constantly worry that I’m missing out on exciting experiences and events. It seems like everyone else is having a great time, and I’m always left out.”

Comparison to others:

“I find myself constantly comparing my social life to that of others. Seeing friends’ social media posts or hearing about their adventures makes me feel inadequate and like I’m not living my life to the fullest.”

Pressure to be everywhere:

“I feel immense pressure to be present at every social gathering or event. I’m afraid that if I don’t attend, I’ll miss out on something incredible or lose touch with my friends.”

Fear of being left behind:

“I worry that if I don’t participate in certain activities or events, I’ll be left behind or excluded from important conversations and connections.”

Regret and self-doubt: “When I choose to stay home or miss out on an opportunity,

I often regret it afterward. I wonder if I’m making the right choices and if I’m really living life to its fullest.”

Difficulty enjoying the present:

“Even when I’m engaged in a current activity, I’m constantly thinking about what else is happening elsewhere. It’s hard for me to fully immerse myself and enjoy the present moment.”

Overwhelming social pressure:

“The pressure to constantly be active and involved socially feels overwhelming. It’s as if I’m expected to always be doing something exciting or being seen at the right places.”

Need for validation and approval:

“I often seek validation and approval from others through attending events and being part of the social scene. I worry that if I’m not present, I won’t be seen as fun or interesting.”

Decision-Making and Responsibility Stress

Indecisiveness:

“I find it difficult to make decisions, big or small. I second-guess myself and worry about making the wrong choice, which often leads to indecision and feeling stuck.”

Overwhelm:

“The responsibility of making important life decisions feels overwhelming. The fear of making a mistake or facing the consequences of my choices can be paralyzing.”

Lack of confidence:

“I doubt my ability to make good decisions. I worry that I don’t have enough experience or knowledge to make the right choices, which leaves me feeling unsure and insecure.”

Procrastination:

“I often delay making decisions because I feel overwhelmed or unsure. I put off responsibilities, which leads to added stress and a sense of being behind.”

Fear of commitment:

“Committing to decisions, whether it’s choosing a career path, a relationship, or even simple everyday choices, can be challenging. I worry about making long-term commitments and being tied down.”

Analysis paralysis:

“I overanalyze situations and get stuck in a loop of weighing pros and cons, which makes decision-making even more difficult. I struggle to find a balance between thorough consideration and taking action.”

Regret and self-blame:

“When decisions don’t turn out as expected, I tend to blame myself and dwell on regrets. I replay scenarios in my mind, wondering what could have been done differently.”

If you're a young adult considering therapy..

Therapy has become crucial for many folks who find themselves struggling with the hurdles that come with this phase of life. Young adulthood is a time of immense change, both internally and externally. It is a period of laying the foundation for future success and personal fulfillment. Mistakes, setbacks, and moments of uncertainty are all natural parts of it. What’s crucial is being able to turn these challenges into opportunities for growth. In therapy, you’ll have a supportive and non-judgmental space where you can explore these concerns, gain clarity, and develop strategies to enhance growth, resilience, self-understanding and acceptance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priscilla is a therapist, psychoanalyst, and the practice owner of Imagine Emotional Wellness, a culturally responsive online therapy practice in New York, New Jersey, and Washington DC. 

Prioritize your mental health and self-care from the comfort of your home.

Schedule a phone consult here. We’ll chat about any questions you might have, and it’ll be an opportunity for me to learn more about you and what you’re going through.
John Doe

John Doe

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