Does Depression Just Go Away?
Depression is a complex and debilitating disorder that plagues many people. The overwhelming feeling of depression can affect every aspect of a person’s life, from their relationships to the professional sphere. It is a considerable weight that can leave a person feeling sad, hopeless, and can even compromise their own self-image.
It is critical to address depression, but depressive episodes can still surface, even while receiving care. Asking, “Does it ever go away?” is a fair question with two distinct interpretations. However, the answer is yes, it can go away — whether a person is looking to address the particular depressive episode they feel stuck in, or thinking about addressing their depression as a whole.
How long can a depressive episode last?
Depression doesn’t have an exact amount of time that it will last for. Depending on the severity of each circumstance, depressive episodes can last anywhere from a few days to months at a time. Those suffering from major depressive disorder can even experience a depressive episode spanning from three to 10 months.
In order to meet the criterion for a clinical diagnosis of depression, however, the episode must last for at least two weeks. This doesn’t mean that an individual cannot suffer from depression if it lasts for less time, though, and each individual’s experience with depression will differ.
It is also possible that individuals may experience varying lengths of their own depressive episodes, due to a number of different factors. For example, the winter months often prove more difficult for those suffering from depression, especially when considering things like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can create even more feelings of depression.
While there is no set timeframe in which everyone experiences depression, keeping track of the length of one’s own depressive episodes, as well as any episodes that do not cleanly fit into any established or known patterns, can help create a more informed plan on the various factors at play in one’s depression.
Does Depression Go Away?
This question is more geared towards those wondering how to get rid of it once and for all, and might be followed with other questions such as, “Can it be cured?” Unfortunately, there is no clear answer here. While it is possible to overcome it, there isn’t any kind of cure for it. Rather, depression is a very individualized experience, and two individuals who are overcoming their depressive episodes may have vastly different approaches.
Depression is unlikely to simply vanish on its own without treatment or dedicated care.
Time is not a reliable way to try to overcome one’s it. It also isn’t confined to a single time, and those who experience depression disorders may feel that depression comes and goes. This cyclic nature can make it seem as if feelings of depression are finally lifting, only for symptoms to come back if an individual does not address them in a dedicated setting.
Why Does Depression Sometimes Come and Go?
Depression can seem to come in waves, and there can be many reasons for this. For some, chemical imbalances in the brain can result in great feelings of depression while the brain attempts to re-regulate itself or find some kind of homeostasis. For others, outside stimuli can influence one’s mood and prompt feelings of depression to come and go. Outside stressors can also make an individual more susceptible, such as work-life imbalance, overwhelming or unfair expectations, or financial and relationship stresses.
Other health conditions can also contribute to one’s mental health. Illness or injury can affect a person’s mind as well as their body, and can cause an individual to experience the effects of depression. While an injury itself can increase the chances of experiencing a depressive episode, likewise, a healthy body can create a healthy mind and help an individual begin to escape a depressive episode, as well.
A depressive episode is a part of a larger disorder that focuses on a single period of low mood and various other symptoms. One’s experience with multiple depressive episodes can then be considered a related disorder, depending on the length of the average episode and the severity of the symptoms. Depressive episodes can leave a person with feelings of intense sadness or helplessness and can lead to a lack of focus throughout one’s day.
Those experiencing a depressive episode may also suffer from drastic mood changes and may exhibit feelings of anger, resentment, or guilt, along with feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Fatigue can also set in, and a person may suffer from a loss of appetite or insomnia. Those suffering from depression may also lose interest in hobbies they previously enjoyed, or begin to forego relationships or responsibilities. This loss of interest can be isolating, and it is important to have a strategy in place to help those who suffer from depression move through these depressive episodes in a safe and healthy way.
Types of Depression
Not all depression is the same, and there are multiple kinds of depression disorders that can affect an individual.
Major Depressive Disorder: A serious kind of depression characterized by extended periods of low mood or loss of interest. Depressive episodes may last weeks to months, and create persistent cycles of depressive episodes.
Persistent Depressive Disorder: A chronic form of depression that may affect an individual continuously, causing a loss of interest in one’s hobbies or pursuits overall, leading to a prevailing negative outlook or persistent low mood for years at a time until addressed.
Bipolar Disorder: Defined by periods of intense mood swings, those who experience bipolar disorder may feel incredibly low lows through their depression, but also almost euphoric highs or feelings of elation, leading to drastic changes in mood.
Postpartum Depression: This can occur in mothers immediately following childbirth, and can be a result of fatigue as well as the emotional stress of this major life change.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: A kind of depression that is linked with the dwindling amounts of daylight and cold weather. This perpetual feeling of night can lead to a feeling of limited freedom and cause a persistent low mood throughout the winter season.
Atypical Depression: A subcategory of major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder — it is most commonly found in those who had been experiencing depressive episodes in their youth or early teenage years.
Why Treatment Is Important
Treatment for any of these kinds of depression is paramount. Depression can make it extraordinarily difficult to accomplish otherwise daily responsibilities, such as one’s own personal hygiene routines or even going to work. These feelings of isolation can cause difficulty creating and maintaining important relationships, as well as leading to other poor health practices, such as malnutrition and a pervasive feeling of helplessness or loneliness. If depression continues to persist without being properly addressed, these feelings can become overwhelming, and an individual may even turn to self-harm or suicidal ideology in an effort to ease their own mental, emotional, or even physical pain.
Treatment can also help prevent those suffering from depressive episodes from turning to their own coping strategies. It is common that depressive episodes may cause an individual to seek immediate relief, regardless of long-term effects, and may turn to the use of drugs or alcohol in an attempt to escape from their pain. This relationship can cause the development of the dangerous use of addictive substances, even leading to addiction, which can further complicate the difficult healing process.
Depression is a treatable illness, and the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it is, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Maintenance therapy is also useful in helping to prevent relapse in individuals living with recurrent depression.
Addressing depression will be different for each person, and each individual will likely have a wholly unique approach to their depressive episodes. As a result, it is important to keep options open and available, as well as maintain an open mind about one’s own path to a productive recovery.
There are various kinds of antidepressants, and sometimes what works for one person doesn’t work for another. It’s not uncommon to have to try more than one medication to find the one that works best for you, as well.
Antidepressants can include:
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
other medications that might be used off-label to help treat depression
Sometimes a combination of drugs might be used, as well as anti-anxiety medications, depending on your situation. If one medication doesn’t work, your doctor may try another one that might be better suited for you.
Many people see a therapist for a variety of reasons, whether or not they have depression. It can be helpful to talk about issues arising in your life with a person who is a trained mental health professional.
Therapy can help:
identify “triggers” that cause feelings of depression
identify detrimental beliefs that you hold
create new, positive beliefs
provide you with coping strategies for negative events and feelings
Psychotherapy is tailored to each person, and by talking about your goals and expectations with your therapist, they’ll be able to work with you to help you deal with your depression.
Hospitalization might be necessary if:
the depressive episode is severe
you’re unable to keep yourself safe
you’re unable to care for yourself
During your hospital stay, your medication might be reviewed or changed, and individual and group therapy might be necessary. This is to provide you with the support and treatment you need as well as to keep you safe until your depressive episode wanes.
Self Care and Lifestyle changes
While there are no “at-home remedies” per se for depression or recurrent episodes, there are some things an individual can do for self-care, including the following:
Follow the agreed-upon treatment plan, whether this means regular therapy sessions, medication, group therapy, abstaining from alcohol — anything.
Minimize or abstain from alcohol and recreational drugs. These cause mood symptoms of their own and may have negative interactions with many psychiatric drugs and antidepressants.
Try to get some fresh air or exercise every day. Even if it’s a walk around the block —especially if you don’t feel like it — getting out of the house can have uplifting effects and help to reduce feelings of isolation that are so common with depression.
Get regular sleep and try to eat a healthy diet. Body and mind are connected, and rest and nutrition can help you feel better.
Discuss any herbal remedies you’re taking with your doctor as they may interfere with the medications the doctor has prescribed to you.
Eating healthy meals can lead to a healthier mind that is better equipped and rested to deal with the symptoms of depression and can also make a person more receptive to new therapeutic approaches.
If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:
Call 911 or your local emergency number.
Stay with the person until help arrives.
Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.