A Psychiatrist on the 9 Biggest Challenges of Young Adulthood

a teen girl with pink hair smiling

By Dr. Hector Rodriguez

As a psychiatrist, I work with people of all ages, but I find it particularly rewarding to work with adolescents and young adults as they make the transition to adulthood. Increasingly, I’m finding that in today’s fast-moving world, our youth are facing more challenges than ever, including rising mental health disorders, loneliness, and burnout.

Based on my work with young people, I’ve identified 9 common struggles that make young adulthood so trying.

Our young people today are shaping their identity in a rapidly changing world that seems to shift by the minute, thanks to factors like technology and social media. Click To Tweet


  1. Financial Pressures

Before we entered a post-pandemic, high-inflation economy, many adults were already reporting their financial status as psychologically distressing. But young people often have the added stressor of balancing student loans with rising rents and other bills. Or, they may be unable to leave their parents’ home because they can’t afford to strike out on their own.

Meanwhile, many face a knowledge gap as they try to pursue stable employment while having limited job experience. In recent years, studies have shown that young adults today are further disadvantaged by a lack of financial literacy, money management skills, and income stability.

  1. Career Uncertainty

In past generations, a college degree might have been seen as a surefire path to employment. Or landing a job would be considered a decades-long commitment, providing stability for a lifetime.

Today, choosing a career path or job is less cut-and-dry. Young people are more likely to switch roles many times over the course of their lives, or they hold multiple jobs at once to make ends meet.

As they enter the job market after high school or college, they face stiff competition, which can invite negative comparisons or lower self-esteem. They may also be navigating the world of internships and entry-level positions where they are less valued, all while needing to upgrade their skills.

  1. Relationship Challenges

As priorities shift in a young adult’s life, building and maintaining relationships can prove challenging. Close friendships may fall away as teenagers move from high school to college or enter the workforce.

Dating and forming romantic relationships can be intense testing grounds for interpersonal skills that are still under development. In addition, questions around sexuality may add to youth mental health issues.

Meanwhile, young people must cope with changing family dynamics when they leave home or establish their independence. This shift can lead to power struggles with parents, or defiance or rebellion against authority figures or societal norms as they understand and test their own boundaries, limitations, and values.

  1. Mental Health Problems

Youth and teen mental health has received more attention in recent years, and rightfully so. Teen girls are suffering from record rates of sadness and suicidality. Studies have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic actually changed adolescents’ brains.

Some young people are engaging in self-harm, underage drinking, or cannabis use to cope with stress and anxiety. To prevent these kinds of unhealthy habits from doing lasting damage, it’s important for youth to seek help for any mental health issues they may be facing.

Unfortunately, while younger generations are generally becoming more open about their struggles, there’s still far too much stigma surrounding mental health disorders. Sadly, research shows that although about half of all mental health problems arise by the mid-teens, most youth don’t get treatment until 11 years after symptoms first appear.

  1. Independence and Responsibility

The transition to adulthood ushers in many new responsibilities. While teens and young adults are often eager to exert independence, they may be unfamiliar with how to tackle typical adult tasks.

Managing household chores and responsibilities, such as cooking, grocery shopping, and maintaining a home, can feel mysterious or difficult. In addition, balancing work and life duties brings new challenges in time management.

We all know what it’s like to feel pulled in a hundred directions, and young adults feel the strain, too. And they have the added pressure of needing to learn these skills for the first time.

  1. Identity and Self-Discovery

As young people grow, it’s natural for them to explore their personal values and beliefs, embarking on an intense and evolving journey of self-discovery. But our young people today are also shaping their identity in a rapidly changing world that seems to shift by the minute, due to factors like technology and social media.

With these advancements comes a new pressure to conform to societal expectations and to make unfavorable comparisons with others online. Not surprisingly, social media use has been studied for its link to mental health problems, including eating disorders, attention issues, addictive behavior, depression, and more.

  1. Loneliness and Isolation

As life evolves for teenagers and young adults, they might experience a feeling of being disconnected from their childhood friends. Simultaneously, they need to adjust to new social landscapes when they enter college or the workforce.

Because young people are now accustomed to connecting online versus in-person—a reality further accelerated by the pandemic—they might feel lonely or unsupported. It’s crucial for our young people to build support networks so they can share resources when they’re struggling.

  1. Health and Well-being

According to a report published in 2022, only a small portion (27%-33%) of children and adolescents aged 5-17 years are getting the recommended 60 minutes or more per day of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise. Researchers hypothesized that factors like pandemics, war/conflicts, and climate or economic changes might decrease these numbers further in the future.

Because physical health has such a profound impact on mental health, it’s crucial to prioritize a healthy diet and exercise. In addition to these fundamental concerns, young adults are learning how to access healthcare without parental guidance while maintaining their mental and emotional well-being.

  1. Time Management and Burnout

Balancing all aspects of health is challenging for everyone in our fast-paced society. As young people juggle school, work, relationships, self-development, and more, they face a greater risk of burnout and overcommitment.

In addition, as a result of the increased job competition mentioned above, they may feel an even more intense pressure to perform and succeed. Therefore, it’s important that they learn strategies for effective time management and allow themselves to take regular breaks for self-care. 


Being a young person has never been easy, but our youth today face factors that previous generations couldn’t have even imagined. While younger generations have been written off as entitled, technology-addicted, and instant gratification-seeking, the fact is that older generations have helped create the environment that is shaping them.

It’s time to acknowledge the challenges of young adulthood, show empathy for their unique struggles today, and encourage them to seek support and resources. With the right mindset, parents and young adults alike will be better equipped to embrace all the incredible growth and learning opportunities this transformational phase offers.

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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