How Long Does a Depressive Episode Last?
There was a time when the consensus about depression involved telling people to “just get over it” or that it’s “all in your head.” Today, researchers and doctors know depression is a genuine condition that affects moods, emotions, and goes deeper than just feeling sad.
Depression brings the strongest person down to their knees and affects virtually every aspect of your life. Moreover, coping with depression without medical help is difficult, and most doctors warn you against doing this.
Some people are lucky and only experience depression once in their lives. Others will have some sporadic and short-lived reoccurrences, and there are others who will battle depression for their entire lives.
Depression can strike anyone regardless of their age, race, or financial status. Proper diagnosis and treatment play a key role in recovery, coping, and good outcomes.
Understanding Clinical Depression
Clinical depression is different and more severe than depression caused by a life event, such as the death of a loved one or other loss. That is not to say these events can’t eventually lead to clinical depression, but for most people, they are short-lived and less severe.
When diagnosing clinical depression, doctors rely on the criteria defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a publication of the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM-5 criteria allow doctors to make a diagnosis of clinical depression based on a set of symptoms severe enough to cause problems in relationships and that affect daily life, which includes your job, school, and social life.
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, in 2015, an estimated 16.1 million adults in the United States had at least one episode of clinical depression.
Clinical depression affects both adults and children. For many people, it can improve with antidepressant medication, psychological counseling or a combination of both.
What It Feels Like to Have a Depressive Episode: It Can Linger or Return
For most people, depression is a temporary thing and passes once feelings are expressed and resolved, either with medication, therapy or by addressing underlying causes. But depression doesn’t go away for everyone.
For those whose depression is recurrent, it is still possible for them to manage feelings, take care of themselves physically and emotionally, take medication and have good lives, all while managing depression. They may have periods where they feel good, feel less bad, or where they are falling apart emotionally.
For these people, depression never really goes away. Whether depression sticks around or not, it needs to be treated.
The fundamental goal of depression treatment is to secure a long-term positive outcome, and not just the treat symptoms for a short time. This does not mean that once depression is resolved, you won’t ever feel sad or depressed again; it means depression does not have to control your life.
Does Depression Ever Go Away On Its Own?
Most depressed people recover, without or without treatment, because it is the nature of the disease. Depression comes and goes.
And yes, some people recover from depression on their own without talk therapy and/or medication. The people who do recover quickly and without medical help likely do so because they are less depressed.