What is late 20s depression?

In this blog we discuss what the late 20s depression is and why it happens. 

We will also discuss what depression is and what steps you can take if you are depressed in your late 20s. 

What is late 20s depression?

The late 20’s depression refers to a period of a life crisis that spans across multiple years of young adults in present day generage. 

This kind of depression also known as “quarter life crisis” affects people from their early 20s, meeting its peak in their late 20s, and finally dissipating in their early 30s. 

Depression in one’s late 20s involves experiencing depression symptoms that cause dissention in the lives of adults in their 20s in terms of their relationships, their romantic partners, their relationship with their parents, and their social circle like friends. 

This depression period in ones late 20s is marked by symptoms such as:

  • Feelings of low mood and low motivation
  • Feelings and thoughts about hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Suicidal ideation and attempts
  • Sleeping too much or insomnia
  • Poor diet
  • General unhappiness
  • In ability to focus on what they are doing which impact their ability to work- they might lose jobs during this stage of their lives as well as their relationships
  • No motivation or interest in their personal relationships
  • Guilt and shame about where they are in life

This kind of depression is marked by a kind of identity crisis and normally following four typical stages:

  • The first stage involves being trapped in a sort of binded commitment to their role as a worker at their jobs or a role of a family member at home. This stage occurs in their early 20s where the individual takes on jobs, enters relationships, and also other financial commitments like renting and taking loans etc. 
  • The second stage begins when they realise that they are stuck or trapped in this sort of pretend adulthood which causes them to make drastic changes. They leave their partners, change their jobs, their social groups.
  • The third and most challenging stage usually occurs in their late 20s where they become isolated and lonely following their separation and change from other people. They spend this period of their lives reflecting and recalibrating their future plans. 
  • Finally, the fourth stage that occurs at the end of their late 20s and the beginning of their 30s is when they start to explore new horizons, meet new people, and also try on new beliefs about themselves and the world around them,

Why do people get depressed in their 20s?

There are a lot of people who become depressed during their late 20s. In fact, according to Ran Zilca for the Harvard Business Review, the onset of mid-life depression has dropped down from one’s late 30s to the late 20s for the present young adult generation. 

The reason for this phenomenon according to researchers is because of the contradiction between their role as adults and as a young individual as well as because of lack of support. 

Confusion of roles

According to Richard A. Settersten JR.,Timothy M. Ottusch, and Barbara Schneider, in their essay “Becoming Adult: Meanings of Markers to Adulthood ” one of the major reasons why individuals have a hard time during the late 20s causing depression is because of role confusion. 

These writers believe that there is a disparity between outdated ideas of what adulthood should look like- have a job, have a house, be married- that was presented by the past generations and what you people actually view themselves as. 

These contradictory signals about their status tends to be one of the reasons why there is so much mental struggle because even if they try to establish their status as adults, the world around them still consider them as children and if they behave like children, they are considered too old to act as such. 

This clash between outdated ideals and the new reality of the present generation has created strife in areas related to the relationships of these 20 year olds and their professional lives as well. 

Lack of support

Another reason why people in their late 20s tend to struggle with depression, according to 

Satya Doyle Byock, author of The Inner World of the First Half of Life: Analytical Psychology’s Forgotten Developmental Stage, is because the individuals coming of age today are starving for guidance.

We are talking about guidance on how to live- in terms of their relationships, their inner lives, as well as their professional lives. Guidance that is related to easing an individual’s transition from childhood into adulthood.

What is Depression?

Depression or clinically known as major depressive disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders, is a  serious mood disorder where people affected by it experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. 

Apart from these emotional distress, people with depression can also experience physical symptoms such as chronic pain, or changes in their behaviour such as social withdrawal or slowed movements.

For someone to be diagnosed with clinical depression, symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. Let us look at the various symptoms that must meet the criteria for a diagnosis of depression. 

The Diagnostic and statistical manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed) DSM-V outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. 

The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure. 

These symptoms should indicate change from normal functioning. 

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day- either by their own observation or observation made by others.
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia. 
  • A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

To be diagnosed with depression, these symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. 

These symptoms should also not be the result of substance abuse or another medical condition.

How to manage and maintain a positive state of mental health?

Mental health is a crucial part of a person’s life as any disruption in their mental well-being can impact their daily lives, their relationships with other people, and also their occupational progress as well. 

Interestingly, this relationship between mental health and the various factors such as relationships, jobs, day to day activities is bi-directional meaning that such factors can be affected by our mental health and at the same time, these factors can affect our mental health. 

A few things that we can do on an individual’s level to manage and maintain our mental health include:

Seek out therapeutic care

Engaging with a therapist, being diligent with your medication, and making the changes you need to make to get better will determine your prognosis.

If the cost of therapy is becoming a burden consider talking to your therapist for a sliding scale option or the possibility of a pro bono case, and if that is not possible ask your therapist to refer you to someone who can take on your case at a much lower rate or for free. 

Your therapist will help you understand what is happening to you, might prescribe you medication if needed, and can help you tap into your own strengths that can help you adapt to challenges, changes, and overcome them.

Join a support group

Another thing you can do for yourself is to join a support group of people struggling with depression so that you can experience emotional support first hand within these communities and over time learn how to manage your challenges by learning from each other. 

It is possible that people with depression can also struggle with a sense of worthlessness, a feeling that you have nothing of value to offer. By joining a group that is open, empathetic, and growing towards healing, you and your experiences can be an excellent sense of support to someone else who is also in their early part of their journey. 

Seek out positive relationships

Like seeking out support in groups, seek out positive relationships in your life that do not judge and rather support you as you get better.

These can be friends, family and even past coworkers who offer support and a shoulder to learn on when you need it. 

These positive relationships can enable you to heal as well as help you as you move forward in life. 

Focus on resting and recovering

The most important thing that you can do for yourself is to rest and focus on recovering, do not rush yourself to get better so that you can go back to school or go back to work. 

Instead, take time to eat well, rest well, exercise, give time to yourself to think and engage in things you used to like doing before you started working- be it reading comics, or playing video games, or walking your pet.

Take effort to engage in things that you love doing, explore new activities if you feel like it and explore the world around you. 


In this blog we discussed what the late 20s depression is and why it happens. 

We also discussed what depression is and what steps you can take if you are depressed in your late 20s. 


Settersten, R.A., Ottusch, T.M., & Schneider, B. (2015). Becoming Adult: Meanings of Markers to Adulthood.

Satya Doyle Byock (2015) The Inner World of the First Half of Life: Analytical Psychology’s Forgotten Developmental Stage, Psychological Perspectives, 58:4, 399-415, DOI: 10.1080/00332925.2015.1092758

Why Your Late Twenties Is the Worst Time of Your Life. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved on 26th March 2022. https://hbr.org/2016/03/why-your-late-twenties-is-the-worst-time-of-your-life

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

About Mental Health. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. 28th June, 2021. Retrieved on 11th Dec 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm

Mental health: strengthening our response. WHO. 30th March 2018. Retrieved on 11th December 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-strengthening-our-response

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