Graduating from college is an incredible achievement, but stepping away from it can be bittersweet. You’ve built a new set of skills, likely met many friends and future colleagues, and finally achieved a degree that can propel you into your career.

Yet despite all of this, many people will experience post-grad depression shortly after their years at university are complete. If you don’t take steps to cope with these feelings in a healthy way, it can lead to a lasting pattern of poor mental health outcomes.

Fortunately, there are several easy steps you can take to cope with post-grad depression and get back to living your best life.

The Multiple Causes of Post-Grad Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health diagnoses in the U.S., according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Estimates suggest that among adults between the ages of 18 and 25, 18.6% experience a major depressive episode each year, right when most people graduate college.

There are countless contributing factors to the development of depression. Some of the more common risk factors include:

  • A family history of depression
  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Major life changes
  • Chronic stress

None of these precursors guarantee that a person will develop depression, but as multiple risk factors add up, the likelihood that they will develop a depressive disorder increases dramatically.

Post-grad depression is tied to the dramatic change in lifestyle that happens when people graduate from college. It is both a major life change and often a source of perpetual stress.

A Loss of Identity

Going to college gives people a sense of identity and purpose. People may identify with their academic life for several years. This is perhaps best illustrated by one of the most common questions that people will ask when meeting someone new for the first time: “What do you do?”

While in college, the answer comes easily. “I’m a college student.” “I’m a business major.” “I play on the football team.”

These answers come naturally to people while they’re still in school. They succinctly describe how you spend your time, what you focus your mental energy on, and what your sense of purpose is in life.

But upon graduation, this sense of identity often gets ripped away, leaving people unsure of how to describe themselves, where to spend their energy, or what their purpose is without school.

Of course, this is also the time to develop this new sense of identity, but this takes time. In the interim, people can feel as though they are cast adrift, not knowing what to do with themselves when they don’t have the structure of a college education guiding them.

Lack of Structure

The structure of a college education can seem overwhelmingly rigid and inflexible while you are in university, but suddenly losing this structure can have a significant negative impact on your mental health. Without classes to attend, homework to complete, and pending due dates for assignments, you may be left with nothing but free time.

At first, this can feel incredibly liberating. You finally have the opportunity to sleep in, to catch up on your favorite shows, or to spend time with your friends in the middle of the week. But as the novelty wears off, people can start to feel as though they have too much idle time, leading to boredom and fatigue.

Research has supported the idea that having a structured routine to live your life by can have strong protective factors for your mental health. It lets you know what to expect from day to day and provides you with a sense of purpose and motivation to accomplish your daily tasks.

Fewer Opportunities for Socialization

College is one of the few places where a large group of young adults gather daily. Taking a class together is a natural meeting place for new friends and acquaintances and encourages lively discussion about interesting topics.

In addition, college life has several events, parties, and social gatherings that help young adults thrive. Whether it’s the big football game against your school’s rival or a college party at the local fraternity or sorority house, there are countless ways to meet new people, spend time with friends, and have large social gatherings with people your age.

Post-grad depression is often a symptom of the removal of these social experiences. It can be hard to come to terms with never attending a college party again or not knowing where to go when you’re feeling lonely or isolated.

Additionally, you might need to navigate maintaining long-distance friendships with people who have moved across the country for a job or returned home to live with their parents.

Uncharted Waters

Graduating from college is a massive life transition. With your education in hand, it’s time to determine where you want to go in the next phase of life. Will you enter the workforce? Start a graduate degree? Travel the world?

Even if you know what you want from this next phase, you might struggle because it is a completely new experience. Finding a career where you put your degree to work is very different than finding a part-time job, and applying to grad school is often a convoluted and difficult process. Even travel is filled with unknowns.

The challenge here lies in doing something for the first time. It can feel like the decisions you make after graduating can shape the course of the rest of your life, which can bring anxiety, stress, or even outright avoidance.

Tools to Cope with Post-Grad Depression

As monumental as the challenges of post-grad depression may seem, there are tools you can use to overcome them. Graduating college is the end of one phase of your life, and some degree of grief over this transition is natural.

But it is also the beginning of a new chapter, and applying a few simple techniques can help keep your mental health in shape.

Find a Social Group

The sudden reduction in how much time you spend with others can be debilitating. As such, it’s important to find a way that you can add social experiences back into your life.

There are several ways you can build socialization back into your routine:

  • Joining a book club that meets weekly
  • Going to group fitness or yoga classes
  • Joining a recreational sports league
  • Starting a weekly game night with your friends
  • Going to church or other spiritual gatherings

These activities not only provide you with a place to meet new people and socialize again but also add some structure back into your life. They typically meet on a regular schedule and can accommodate a wide range of interests.

Build Healthy Routines

The structure of college can be an incredible boost for your mental health. As such, when dealing with post-grad depression, building new and healthy routines for yourself can help restore this sense of structure and get you back to feeling your best.

For many people, the structure of college is often restored by finding a full-time job. But if you haven’t found employment quite yet or feel as though you still need some additional structure on top of your new career, here are some healthy routines you can incorporate into your weekly schedule:

  • Starting a fitness routine
  • Keeping a consistent sleep schedule
  • Prioritizing your nutrition
  • Engaging in regular self-care practices
  • Scheduling time for work and time for play

Figuring out the routine that works for you can take some trial and error. Some people thrive with a higher level of structure and rigidity, while others prefer taking a more relaxed approach. Try a few different routines and see what works for you.

Seek Professional Help

If your depression is starting to interfere with the rest of your life, seeking out professional mental health treatment is often the best option. Depression is a serious mental health condition, but it can be treated effectively with a variety of different therapies or interventions.

Virtual or In-Person Therapy

Talk therapy has been used in the treatment of depression for decades with great success. Working one-on-one with a therapist can help you identify the source of your post-grad depression, determine where your specific challenges lie, and give you evidence-based tools to help you work toward recovery.

At Plus by APN, therapy can be scheduled in either in-person or virtual formats. Our team uses a wide range of therapeutic modalities to help people overcome the challenges of post-grad depression, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy

These therapeutic modalities have shown time and time again to help people overcome depression and achieve lasting recovery.

Ketamine-Assisted Treatment

Ketamine-assisted treatment (KAT) is a relatively new style of depression treatment. KAT uses the dissociative psychedelic medication ketamine to help enhance the talk therapy process. It helps people break down their defenses and work at the true root cause of their depression.

KAT is done exclusively at our specialized mental health facility. After a brief consultation, clients receiving KAT meet with their therapist and take a small dose of ketamine during an individual therapy session.

Sessions typically last 90 minutes to two hours, during which time your therapist will sit with you and discuss anything that comes up during the ketamine experience.

While most people feel substantial improvement after just a single session of KAT, you can further solidify your mental health improvements with several sessions. Best of all, KAT has been shown to be effective even for people who haven’t found success with traditional talk therapy or psychiatric medication approaches.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) uses innovative technology to help treat depressive disorders at the source. dTMS is a completely non-invasive procedure that delivers targeted magnetic impulses to regions of the brain that are commonly impacted during depression.

This stimulation causes underactive brain regions to increase their electrical activity. In practice, this means that many of the most common symptoms of depression are relieved.

The effects from dTMS have proven to be highly durable — meaning they last for a long time after treatment — and can effectively treat many common forms of depression.

Start Treatment at Plus by APN

Plus by APN was started to provide the best in traditional and innovative approaches for many mental health conditions. Our team integrates time-tested approaches, such as talk therapy and psychiatry, with exciting new techniques, such as ketamine-assisted treatment and deep transcranial magnetic stimulation.

We aim to provide every possible path to recovery and keep you feeling your best for years to come. To get started at Plus by APN, call our mental health team at 424.644.6486 or send us a message using our online contact form.


  • “Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Accessed 15 May 2024.
  • “Major Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Accessed 15 May 2024.