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 Depression 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.
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.
Psychotherapy: Therapy is the first step towards a better understanding of one’s own experience with depression. Individual talk therapy and education can better prepare an individual for addressing their unique experience with depression and can lead to other personalized treatment approaches.
Medication: Depending on the severity, there are medications that can help address any chemical imbalance in the brain that may be causing depression, or that can help stabilize one’s mood to better address the condition.
Self-Care: The often-overlooked practice of taking care of one’s self, such as taking time off of work when feeling stressed or scheduling time to partake in one’s hobbies, such as craftsmanship or watching a movie.
Nutrition: 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.
Combination: Due to the uniqueness of each person’s experiences, no single approach may work entirely, so it is important to take multiple different treatment options into a recovery plan in order to reap the best possible results and address depression effectively and holistically.