How Long Does Depression Last?

Depression has become a major public health concern in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 4.7% of American adults [4*]  experience it regularly.

While it is normal to feel sad from time to time, severe and persistent sadness accompanied by other symptoms may be a sign of major depressive disorder. If one is diagnosed with this medical condition, they are probably wondering: how long does depression last?

To answer this question, let’s explore the specifics of a depressive episode, available treatment options, and additional factors that may influence the patient’s progress.

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How Long Do Depressive Episodes Last?

Recent studies [5*]  show that a depressive episode lasts between six and eight months. However, the duration of depressive episodes varies from one person to the other. While some people may experience depression that fades within a few weeks, others struggle with the condition for years.

The duration also depends on a wide range of factors, including the type of depressive disorder they have and whether they received treatment or not. These are some examples:

  • Bipolar disorder. If manic depression is untreated, one can experience extreme mood swings almost all their life. Sometimes victims are full of energy, while at other times, they feel extremely hopeless and sad.
  • Seasonal affective disorder. This type of depression occurs during specific seasons and goes away when the season ends. As days pass, the symptoms gradually fade.
  • Postpartum depression. A person may experience anxiety, mood changes, and tearfulness a few weeks after childbirth. With urgent and proper treatment, this depressive episode usually lasts for a few months to a year. But if untreated, it can last for many years.

In addition, symptoms of depression may occur due to hormonal shifts. For example, when one nears menopause. If a person has had a previous diagnosis of depression, they are more likely to experience depressive episodes after menopause. In such cases, the doctor can prescribe hormonal medications or antidepressants. Significant results can be achieved within a few weeks or months.

How Long Does It Take to Treat Depression?

Depression can be treated but cannot be cured. In other words, even if an individual overcame one depressive episode, it doesn’t mean they will be in remission forever. Some stressful events, illnesses, substance abuse, or even unhealthy habits can lead to another episode that will require treatment again.

In this context, let’s focus on treating one depressive episode. And how long it takes to overcome depression and prevent it from developing again largely depends on the chosen treatment:

  • Medications. The doctor may prescribe antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and others. The effect of such medications is usually seen within 2-4 weeks (it can take even less or more depending on individual factors). The minimum course is 6-9 months, after which the decision of continuing or discontinuing the medication is made.
  • Psychotherapy. While medications successfully reduce the symptoms of depression, to understand its root causes, psychotherapy may be needed. The doctor may recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy. Usually, it takes 12-16 sessions (held weekly or bi-weekly) to not just achieve the result but also make it stable. For some people, 10-20 sessions of short-term counseling will be enough to progress with their recovery.
  • Combined. Different studies [6*]  show that combining psychotherapy and medications is more effective for major depressive disorder, and it brings longer-lasting effects.

The type of treatment recommended depends on the severity of one’s condition. In some severe cases, hospital and residential treatment might be necessary.

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Can You Get Over Depression Faster Using Self-Help Tips?

Be it the first or the subsequent depressive episode; you can ease its course by implementing self-help tips. It includes tackling the symptoms as soon as you notice them. Also, some habits may help to prevent severe symptoms from developing.

6 Tips to Help one Get Over Depression Quicker

  • Track your depression triggers. If you keep track of symptoms and moods, you can identify the triggers and prevent a full-blown depressive episode.
  • Make lifestyle adjustments. Quit smoking, caffeine, or alcohol if they trigger depressive episodes. Include regular physical activity in your daily routines and stick to a healthy diet.
  • Practice mindfulness. Instead of being anxious, always appreciate the present moment. In other words, continually try to fully experience every moment and opportunity.
  • Keep thoughts in check. Challenge negative thoughts and entertain more balanced ones.
  • Practice deep breathing. These techniques help calm anxiety and soothe how your body responds to stress.
  • Remember about self-care. Engaging in self-care activities, such as taking time to relax, allows your body to recharge. Also, set aside some time to connect with others.

Dealing with a depressive episode can be daunting, and you don’t have to do it alone. Feel free to seek help from a doctor, family, friends, or support groups.

The Takeaway

Have you been struggling with depression and wondering how long the episodes will last? Well, depression is a highly recurrent condition, and the duration of episodes depends on many factors. These include the type of depression one has, how severe it is, how promptly the treatment is started, and more. However, while you should be ready for at least a few weeks of treatment to achieve significant results, feel free to contact EZCare Clinic to be guided on this path to relief.


+6 sources
  1. Depression
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  2. Duration of major and minor depressive episodes and associated risk indicators in a psychiatric epidemiological cohort study of the general population. (2017)
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  3. Combining psychotherapy and antidepressants in the treatment of depression. (2001)
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  4. Depression
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  5. Duration of major and minor depressive episodes and associated risk indicators in a psychiatric epidemiological cohort study of the general population. (2017)
    Source link
  6. Combining psychotherapy and antidepressants in the treatment of depression. (2001)
    Source link

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This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.