Failure to Launch and Depression

By Ashley Barnes, M.S.

What is “Failure to Launch”?

Yes, Failure to Launch is a 2006 Romantic Comedy starring Matthew McConaughey. It is also a growing phenomenon of young adults struggling to make the transition to adulthood.

In many Western countries, young adults are expected to “leave the nest” and become independent from their family of origin. In Japan, hikikomori describes how some people withdraw from society and isolate, often starting in their 20s. This growing phenomenon spans across many cultures and many people wonder what contributes to this occurrence. 

According to Scientific American, “the defining feature of failure to launch is foot dragging, delaying, stalling, or flat-out refusal to participate in life…in 2014, over seven million American men ages 25-54 were neither working nor looking for work, up 25% from 10 years prior” (2019). 

How to recognize “Failure to Launch.”

The following are some signs that someone may be struggling with failure to launch:

  • Procrastination: Many people deem procrastination as a negative character trait that goes along with laziness. However, procrastination can be a symptom of deeply rooted behaviors or indicative of anxiety and depressive disorders.
  • Lack of Direction: Many young adults stay at home longer, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are struggling with failure to launch. However, when someone doesn’t have a plan to work toward achieving independence, this might be the case.
  • Not Taking Responsibility: To become independent, we must take responsibility for our own actions. Someone struggling with failure to launch may struggle to take responsibility for their failure to launch, instead blaming this on external factors, bad luck, or other people
  • Addiction and Substance Abuse: Substance abuse and addiction can negatively impact physical and emotional development. Failure to launch is a delay in development and is often accompanied by addiction to a substance or behavior (like playing video games or shopping). 

Why “Failure to Launch”?

Yes, we are facing an economic downturn and many people are unwilling to take on educational debt that can’t be paid off by lower-level jobs, and the pandemic impacted the job market. These are definitely factors that contribute. 

However, if failure to launch sounds similar to experiences that accompany depression, you aren’t wrong. Depression is one of the most common mental health challenges that people face. According to the CDC, the percentage of adults who experienced any symptoms of depression was highest among those aged 18–29 (21.0%), followed by those aged 45–64 (18.4%) and 65 and over (18.4%), and lastly, by those aged 30–44 (16.8%) (2019).

Many people who struggle with depression symptoms have impaired functioning that impact their relationships, career, and tasks of daily living. This can look like procrastination, lack of direction, dependence on parents/caregivers, and isolating, experiences that are often synonymous with depression. Many also struggle with addictions, substance abuse, and anxiety alongside the depression symptoms. 

Common symptoms of depression are:

  • Depressed mood: feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness.
  • Lack of pleasure: in various activities, even those you love most.
  • Fluctuations in weight: eating more or less than usual.
  • Sleep changes: you may find yourself sleeping more or less than you normally would.
  • Slowing down: you may be observed by others to move and talk slower than usual.
  • Loss of energy: you may experience tiredness and lack of energy.
  • Guilt: this feeling may become excessive and may be accompanied by feelings of worthlessness.
  • Concentration changes: you may have trouble focusing or making decisions.
  • Thoughts of death: some people experience thoughts of suicide or related ideation. 
    • If you have any of these thoughts and have an intent to act on them, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988 for your own safety.

Many people, especially those in the medical and mental health community, may argue that rather than a failure to launch epidemic, we have a mental health epidemic on our hands. 

Let Us Support You or Your Loved One

The Mental Health Center at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Office towers provides quality care with a variety of different treatment options. We are affiliated with doctors and therapists who specialize in the treatment of depression and other mood disorders. The following are options that Mental Health Center provides or can connect patients to:

  • Medications: SSRI medications are often effective in depression treatment and are prescribed by psychiatrists. 
  • Psychotherapy: “talk therapy” is a useful way to work through your experience with a mental health professional in a way that helps us learn coping skills for depression. 
  • Ketamine Treatment: ketamine is a medication administered by a healthcare professional that is used for treatment-resistant depression.
  • Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP): a combination of psychotherapy and ketamine treatment caringly wrapped in the same appointment. 

Ketamine Therapy Center

Ketamine Therapy Center (KTC) is a treatment branch from the Mental Health Center that specializes in ketamine infusion therapy. 

Doctors affiliated with KTC offer Ketamine Therapy Evaluations to thoroughly assess patients for ketamine therapy candidacy; from here, they collaborate with patients to develop treatment plans. Our office in the Cedars-Sinai Medical Office towers houses rooms specially designed for patient comfort. Highly experienced and talented nurses are well-versed in ketamine infusion therapy and help patients feel comfortable as they move through the treatment process. Psychotherapists who work with us are trained in Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) and offer therapeutic guidance to enhance the psychological benefit of the treatment while simultaneously creating a grounded and safe space.

For more information, please do not hesitate to explore our website or contact our office!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Symptoms of Depression Among Adults: United States, 2019. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from

Scientific American (2019). Failure to Launch Syndrome. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from