Health Education

Get Psyched: Why You Should See a Psychiatrist in Your Early 20s

Cropped SingleCare logo By | September 15, 2015

The stigma against mental healthcare is keeping young people from seeking help. It’s time for that to change.

Some lingering stereotypes keep many young people from seeking help for a variety of emotional and mental issues. Unlike an annual physical, many people rarely schedule check-ups with a therapist, nor do they speak freely with a medical professional about their mental health concerns. Some even think of therapists as an unnecessary expense that’s only affordable for a limited few.

But this misguided view ignores an all-important truth: everyone could stand to benefit from therapy, and the sooner they get it, the better.

Vice recently discussed this topic at length with Johanna Jarcho, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health. She focuses on the effect of mental illness on brain development in her work, and her findings make it clear how important medical assessment is early on in your adult life.

Nature and Nurture

It turns out that the quarter-life crisis isn’t a myth after all. According to Dr. Jarcho, the bulk of mental health disorders crop up during the period between adolescence and your early twenties. As research shows, that’s because the immense changes the brain undergoes during adolescence make it easy for mental issues to develop.

The brain continues to evolve during your early twenties and remains sensitive to all the negative factors in an individual’s wider social environment. While these external factors certainly affect and shape the brain’s development, some disorders — like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — are passed on genetically.

One’s environment can also trigger the onset of inherited disorders, while context plays an even larger role in problems like depression and anxiety. For all types of psychological disorders, research is still unpacking the respective parts played by nature and nurture. As Dr. Jarcho puts it, “At this point, we’re just starting to know what we don’t know.”

Know Yourself, Help Yourself

In navigating the world of mental health, it’s important to know what you’re most at risk for — that way, you’re tuned in to the symptoms you need to be conscious of. For example, if any close relatives have been diagnosed with a psychological disorder, you should treat that as a warning sign that you’re at a higher risk of exhibiting a similar illness in your lifetime.

In all cases, though, getting a firm diagnosis requires the help of a professional. Dr. Jarcho advises anyone who’s curious about their mental health to go beyond researching their symptoms online and reach out to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other specialist. Though your computer might provide “a good first step,” it can never give treatment for a serious problem.

While spells of sadness or anxiety are quite typical in your twenties and late teens, reaching out to a doctor can help you put those sometimes harmless symptoms in perspective. Many young people are unaware of whether what they’re experiencing is normal, or if they’re on the road towards a breakdown.

The earlier you see a professional, the less likely it is that these problems will culminate in something serious or follow you through adulthood.

Critical Transition

Dr. Jarcho underscores how pivotal the transition from adolescence to adulthood really is, saying that it has a big influence on whether or not an individual becomes a psychologically “healthy” adult: “The most important thing that you can do to mitigate the effects that any kind of [mental or behavioral issue] might have is to get treatment…when you’re younger.”

The simple fact is that avoiding treatment for your symptoms now will make it harder to treat them in the future. A little preventative care can go a long way — that’s why Dr. Jarcho encourages individuals to see mental care not as a last resort, but as a “general wellness thing, like an annual check-up.”

You and a professional can address problems as they arise, instead of letting them snowball into something bigger.

Cut Costs for Care

Fortunately, SingleCare makes it easy for patients to see a great mental health professional at an affordable rate. It can even be used in conjunction with an existing insurance plan to supplement mental health coverage. You can even know much an appointment will cost before you get the bill.

SingleCare connects people with healthcare providers for a price that’s up to 60% less than the out-of-pocket price, which could mean a more affordable mental health checkup for you — even if you don’t have insurance.

(Main image credit: Hey Paul Studios/flickr)