Depression impacts how you feel, think, and perform daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.1 Frequency, longevity, and severity of depressive symptoms vary, but in the majority of cases, clinical depression won’t go away on its own. Mental health treatment can influence how long it lasts and how able the person can cope with its impact.
What Is Depression?
Depression involves a persistent low mood and feeling of sadness and hopelessness. These issues can also come with feelings of tiredness, focusing on the negative, and thoughts of self-harm.
Symptoms of Depression
There can be many different symptoms of depression. These symptoms can vary by individual, their circumstances, history, trauma, and other factors, but there are some common symptoms to be aware of.
Common characteristics of depression include:
- Hopelessness and feeling discouraged about the future
- Feeling low sense of worth
- Lacking motivation and drive due to negative beliefs
- Seeing themself as a burden
- Suicidal thoughts
Does Depression Go Away On its Own?
It’s difficult to say with certainty whether depression goes away on its own after a certain amount of time passes. Without professional mental health treatment, it can become harder for people to put a stop to their depression symptoms, and the more severe the symptoms are, the more debilitating they become.
The length of time someone experiences depression depends on several factors:
Type of Depression
The type of depression a person has directly impacts how long it remains. For example, if depression is associated with the death of a loved one, it can improve as grief is processed. Another type of depression is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD start in the fall and continue into winter, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. They improve with more sun and daylight.
A longer, more severe type of depression is persistent depressive disorder (PDD) or dysthymia. Fewer people have this diagnosis; however, those who do will experience more chronic and crippling depression that can last for years.
Cause of Depression
The cause of depression is another factor to determine its longevity. If the cause is associated with something short-term or situational like depression after a job loss, puppy blues, or premenstrual syndrome (PMS), symptoms may not last as long. Other causes could be related to chronic illnesses like arthritis or dementia.1
Severity of Depression
Milder depressions have a higher possibility of being resolved without treatment. Major depressive disorders tend to last six months to two years. The more severe depression (i.e., persistent depressive disorder) can last two years or longer, especially if left untreated. These kinds of depression are more difficult to overcome due to length and severity of symptoms. Mental health expertise will likely be needed to treat more serious types.
Is depression genetic? Yes, it can have a genetic component. If there’s a family history of depression, there’s a greater chance you’ll experience it. People with a first-degree relative (e.g., parent or sibling) with depression appear to have a two to three times greater risk of developing the condition than the general public.5
In cases of genetic-related depression, if you were around a relative who was depressed, you may unknowingly copy depressive symptoms. Just because a close relative has depression does not ensure you will get it; rather, you may be more susceptible.
There is no definitive research regarding genetic depression and how it subsides. It isn’t certain if it can just go away or if treatment is necessary to alleviate symptoms.
Treatment for depression can involve psychotherapy vs. medication. However, with treatment-resistant depression (TRD), standard treatments aren’t enough. They may not help much at all, or your symptoms may improve, only to keep coming back.6 If this is the case, it may be necessary to try a therapist who uses different therapeutic techniques and recovery services to provide symptom relief.
When to Seek Professional Help For Depression
If symptoms are mild and allow you to function normally at work, in relationships, and in regard to your health, you don’t need to seek outside help. If your symptoms interfere with your daily functioning or if unhappiness has been the norm for weeks, months, or years, then it’s time to try finding & choosing an online therapist.7 Start your search by asking for a referral from your primary care physician or by using an online therapist directory.
If you have thoughts of suicide and self-harm, or your symptoms become worse or more frequent, seek treatment immediately.
Depression Treatment Options
Depression often responds well to treatment. The two most common treatments for depression are psychotherapy and antidepressant medications, which are often used in tandem. There are also a series of alternative remedies used to treat depression.
Here is how therapy and antidepressants lessen symptoms of depression:
Therapy For Depression
Psychotherapy helps people learn to cope with and manage stressors. It also helps them identify specific behaviors or life events that might be causing the depression.
Here are types of therapy used to treat depression:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): the goal of CBT for depression is to recognize and change false and distressing beliefs. CBT is generally done on a short-term basis, and it ranges from 8 to 20 sessions.8
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT): interpersonal therapy focuses on communication and relationships. The American Psychological Association says patients learn to improve their relationships by better expressing their emotions.9
- Psychodynamic therapy: psychodynamic therapy examines past life events that may negatively influence current relationships, behaviors, and mood. It involves introspection and self reflection that helps identify those connections. New, more positive behaviors are created to replace current harmful behavioral patterns.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR for depression is useful to treat people experiencing depression and trauma. The EMDR International Association says its eight phases focus on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue and allowing the brain to resume its natural healing process.10
Medications For Depression
Depression affects parts of the brain that regulate mood. Antidepressants help increase neurotransmitters that are linked with depression, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. The increase of these chemicals helps lessen depression.
Here are commonly prescribed medication for depression:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): these medications are most frequently used to treat depression. They increase your brain’s level of serotonin, which is associated with feeling happy and content.11 Examples of these medications include Citalopram (Celexa), Sertraline (Zoloft), Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Paroxetine (Paxil).
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs restore the balance of chemicals in your brain by boosting two neurotransmitters: serotonin and norepinephrine, which affects your energy level, focus, and attention.12 Examples of these medications are venlafaxine (Effexor), and Duloxetine (Cymbalta).
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): TCA’s are used less often today because they tend to have more side effects, including dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, and increased heart rate. Examples of these medications are Amitriptyline, Amoxapine, and Desipramine (Norpramin).
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): this class of medication was the first antidepressant. They’re used less often because they also have a higher number of side effects (e.g., dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, and nausea). Examples of these medications are isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), and selegiline (Emsam).
Alternative Remedies for Depression
There are a variety of at home strategies you can incorporate into your life to supplement formal depression treatment. Some of these alternative treatments for depression may come more naturally to you, but finding intentional ways to take care of yourself when you’re feeling depressed can help improve how you feel.
Some at-home depression remedies include:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Practicing gratitude
- Deep breathing exercises
- Mindful eating
- Setting a consistent sleep schedule
- Routine exercise
Final Thoughts: Does Depression Go Away On Its Own?
When depressive symptoms get worse or remain for more than a few weeks, the depression probably isn’t going to go away on its own. If depression is left untreated, it can become chronic (long-lasting).13 Consult a mental health professional or your doctor to determine the best course of action to take care of yourself and pursue recovery.