Transitional Independent Living


Could Your Young Adult Have a Mental Disorder

You thought all of your children were prepared for adulthood.

Recently, though, you’ve noticed that one of your adult children has changed. Perhaps he or she has always had difficulty with school, maintaining relationships, or deciding on a career, but the problem appears to be worse now. Or, you may be seeing sudden and drastic changes in your young adult’s behavior. Now you’re concerned that this child isn’t as ready for leaving home as you thought.

It may be more than a lack of maturity, however. Your young adult may have developed or is experiencing the first symptoms of a mental disorder.

The Adolescent Brain

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five of teenagers and young adults are living with a mental disorder. Three-quarters of them have begun exhibiting symptoms by age 24.

The human brain continues to develop throughout adolescence. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “[i]n key ways, the brain doesn’t look like that of an adult until the early 20s.” These changes may at least partially explain why some mental disorders don’t develop until around this time in a person’s life. Hormonal changes and stressors may also contribute.

Mental Disorders that May Develop in Young Adulthood

There are a number of disorders that may not affect your children until they are teenagers or young adults. They include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Schizophrenia

For other disorders, such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder, your young adult may have started displaying symptoms much earlier in childhood. However, the symptoms may not have much effect on his or her life until facing the stresses of adolescence and young adulthood.

Symptoms to Watch Out For

This is not going to be an exhaustive list, as symptoms for the disorders listed above vary widely. Generally, any major change in your young adult could be cause for concern. Here are some notable ones to pay attention to:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in ability to function in everyday life
  • Depression
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts or speaking
  • Hallucinations or other changes in perception of reality
  • Increase in concern over appearance
  • Increased levels of worry or fear
  • Increased or decreased energy levels
  • Loss of appetite or increased appetite
  • Physical ailments with no explanation
  • Sleep problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Sudden risky behaviors
  • Suicidal tendencies

Work With a Professional

The earlier your young adult receives diagnosis and treatment with his or her mental disorder from a mental health professional, the better they will be able to cope in the future. The mental health professional your family chooses to work with will help your family develop a treatment plan that best fits the needs of your child.

Your young adult may also benefit from the support of peers experiencing similar changes in their lives. The mental health professional should be able to help your young adult connect with groups where they can find this support.

Life After Diagnosis

Your adult child will likely continue on to live an independent and fulfilling life. They may just need your support for a little bit longer than their siblings or many of their peers.


National Alliance on Mental Illness – Teens & Young Adults –

National Alliance on Mental Illness – Know the Warning Signs –

National Institute of Mental Health – The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction – – The Real World: Recognizing Mental Illness in Young Adults –

Help your young adult deal with this new development in their lives

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