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Transitioning to Adulthood: Coming of Age Mental Health Challenges

As a Portland therapist I see clients everyday that are struggling with life transitions. Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is a significant and transformative period in one's life. This "coming of age" phase is marked by numerous changes and challenges as young men and women navigate their way into adulthood. While this journey can be exciting and full of opportunities, it is also accompanied by unique mental health challenges that require attention and understanding

Most people will identify this coming-of-age phase as happening from around seventeen years old until their early twenties. This is a time when parents let go of the reigns and give the responsibilities of full autonomy to their children. With this autonomy comes a unique desire for individuals to find out who they are and what they want. This transition into autonomy comes with many struggles though, especially if the parents hadn’t been preparing the individual for the transition for the previous eighteen years

Portland Counseling

What are Some Unique Struggles of Young Adults?

Transition from high school to college and/or work

Leaving the cohort of friends, teachers, and parents that have often been present since childhood can be daunting. The old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” is true, and that village is a comforting place for the child. Leaving that village and being met with academic expectations, coupled with the pressure to choose the right career path, can create significant stress and anxiety. Fear of failure and feelings of inadequacy can loom large, affecting mental well-being and self esteem

Financial responsibilities with no resume and/or a full school load

As young adults become financially independent, they face new responsibilities and challenges related to managing their finances. Facing the stress of rent, student loans, grocery bills, car insurance, and a plethora of other expenses can drown a person in anxiety just when they are supposed to be enjoying their newfound freedom

Autonomy without experience

While we hope that all young adults were given sufficient training and autonomy in decision making we know this is often not the case. Authoritarian parents will ship their children off to college and expect them to be successful because their children listened to them and followed their guidance. Now this young adult is in charge of making decisions on their own and they don’t possess the skills to do so. Decision making is a skill that takes a lifetime to master. The longer the parents of the young adult gave autonomy to their child to start practicing this skill, the better suited the person will be. Even with the best parenting style though, young adults will be much less equipped to make good decisions than older adults

What are Some Best Practices to Help in the Coming-of-Age Phase?

Engage in open communication

Engage in open communication about struggles, failures, and successes. Young adults need to feel comfortable discussing their emotions and seeking help. This can be done through college counselors, mental health counselors, friends, and family. A great way to ease the pressures of decision making is to get input from trusted sources

Surround yourself with supportive and like-minded people

Being in the company of people you admire and respect that feel the same towards you is a recipe for success. Although young adults have left the village that helped raise them, they are entering a new village. This village looks and feels different than the one they came from but it can still be as powerful and meaningful. Make sure the people that surround you are there to lift you up and more importantly, catch you if you fall

Practice self-compassion

You are destined to struggle. Nobody comes into adulthood without some major speed bumps along the way. Embrace the struggle. It is important to reframe the struggles from things that are unique to you and that will cause you to fail, to instead be struggles that are there to make you stronger and more resilient. Be aware of thoughts and constantly ready to adjust them to lead to more success

Create an exercise routine

Stay active! Developing an exercise routine will help keep you fit (no freshman fifteen), help you with sleep, and keep your brain sharp. It will give you goals to work towards and help prevent you from falling into a feeling of lacking motivation. Exercise is the best thing you can do to help combat depression and anxiety. Plus, it will help boost your confidence and self-image and could lead to more success in possible romantic encounters


Transitioning to adulthood is a time of growth, learning, and self-discovery. While it comes with unique challenges, it also offers an opportunity for personal development and resilience. By fostering open communication, surrounding yourself with supportive people, practicing self-compassion, and developing an exercise routine, young adults can navigate these challenges with strength and develop a positive foundation for their mental well-being in adulthood

Portland Therapist

Matthew Schubert is a mental health counselor who owns and operates Rose City Wellness in Portland, Oregon

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