Millennials, Depression, and the Link to Substance Abuse

Millennials — a generation of young adults born between 1981 and 1996 — are facing a mental health crisis. Born during global shifts of technology, society, and culture, Millennials are often impacted by the mental health consequences that come with straddling a generational chasm. As a result, there has been a marked increase in reported rates of Millennials and depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. 

Millennials and Depression: Contributing Factors

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Millennials were already coping with unprecedented rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. About one-third of Millennials were already experiencing problems with depression and substance abuse disorders. However, during the pandemic, there was a notable increase; more than 50% of Millennials are now reporting various depressive symptoms. Too often, in order to cope with untreated mental health symptoms, many Millennials are turning to alcohol and drugs. 

There are a number of contributing factors at the root of this generation’s rate of mental health disorders:

Technology overload: Millennials were the first generation to be raised with the full breadth of the Internet and all of its advantages — and pitfalls. With today’s constantly connected virtual ecosystem, Millennials are fed a constant stream of news and updates which can lead to increased rates of anxiety. Additionally, constant exposure to electronic devices like phones and computers can negatively impact sleep hygiene, resulting in sleep deprivation, chronic fatigue, depression and anxiety.

Economic factors: While Millennials are the first generation to have more college graduates than not, compared to previous generations, they also started life with more debt. Compounding this issue is the availability of jobs in their chosen fields, as well as an ever-increasing cost of living.

Isolation: Even though Millennials are more connected than ever, they are also more isolated than previous generations. Social media does not always equate to meaningful real-life relationships. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this issue. Isolation and feeling disconnected from other people is one of the bigger contributing factors for Millennials and depression, anxiety, and substance abuse rates.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression doesn’t always look the same for each person. This, among other reasons, is why it may difficult for someone to realize they have depression. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, reaching out to a qualified specialist is the first step in getting the help you need: 

  • Increased fatigue and exhaustion
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulties focusing and concentrating
  • Irritability and anger
  • Constantly worrying
  • Feeling on edge
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Lack of desire to engage in activities — especially ones that you used to take pleasure in
  • Feelings of unworthiness or uselessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation

Increased Rates of Substance Abuse Among Millennials

There is a growing body of evidence that indicates substance abuse rates among Millennials is increasing at an alarming rate. This is due to a number of factors, including:

Self-medicating: in order to deal with the symptoms of depression and anxiety, many people in this generation turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.

Social isolation: when someone feels like they’re alone they are less likely to have the resources available to reach out to when they feel stressed, worried, or depressed.

Normalization of substance use: between social media, popular television shows, peer pressure, and efforts to legalize marijuana substance abuse has been more or less normalized for Millennials. This makes it more difficult for individuals in this generation to realize that they have a problem that they need to seek treatment for.

The Link Between Millennials and Depression and Substance Abuse

Initially, most Millennial men believe they can self-manage their depression on their own by drinking or using drugs occasionally. Initially, they like the rush they get when their brains release increased levels of dopamine. 

Dopamine, a “feel good” chemical, helps to alleviate many depression symptoms. However, as it wears off, the need to drink more or take drugs again to feel good increases. Eventually, the brain develops a tolerance for alcohol and drugs. In order to achieve the same effect, more and more drugs or alcohol need to be consumed. 

The more often you drink, or abuse drugs, the more your body depends on the substance being abused leading to addiction. You may feel like you need to drink or use drugs, just to get through the day. 

Some of the signs to watch for that could indicate alcohol abuse or substance abuse include:

  • Frequent drinking
  • Binge drinking
  • Mixing alcohol and drugs
  • Reckless and impulsive behavior, including driving under the influence and unprotected sex, 
  • Impulsive need to use drugs or alcohol
  • Inability to stop using drugs or alcohol
  • Irritability, mood swings, and anger when you don’t drink or use drugs
  • Physical symptoms that indicate withdrawal, such as sweating, intestinal distress, and shaking

Addiction Treatment in Southern California

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression and substance abuse, help is available at New Life House in Southern California. We have several treatment facilities that are age-specific and just for men. 

We have found that offering young men and Millennials access to age and gender-specific treatment helps improve recovery rates by focusing treatment on their unique needs. Furthermore, having a network of peers in recovery to offer support, understanding, and empathy forms the framework for lasting and meaningful recovery.

When you are ready to get treatment for addiction or mental health disorder, we’re here to help. For further information about our customizable depression and addiction treatment programs for young men in Southern California, please feel free to email us at [email protected], calling 888-357-7577, or contact us today.

Last Updated on February 22, 2024


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