Can Depression Go Away on Its Own?

Why Waiting It Out Usually Doesn't Work

Why Seek Professional Treatment for Depression?

Verywell / Cindy Chung 

Many people with clinical depression wonder if their symptoms will go away on their own with time. The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors, such as the type and severity of the depression.

However, since depression is highly treatable, seeking proper treatment can help you feel better more quickly. Plus, not taking care of depression not only leads to needless suffering, but it can have devastating consequences. Treatment options can be tailored to your situation, providing the best results.

Why Depression Sometimes Does and Doesn't Go Away on Its Own

Many say that "time heals all wounds," but that's not entirely true when it comes to depression. How long depression lasts—and whether it will get better without treatment—can vary based on a variety of factors.

Type

Certain types of depression tend to last longer than others. For example, seasonal affective disorder generally occurs only during the winter months, easing once springtime hits, whereas persistent depressive disorder is diagnosed when depression lasts for two years or more.

Cause

The cause of the depression can also affect its length. If the depression is caused by a specific situation or temporary stressor, it may not last as long.

Depression can also occur as a result of other health conditions. For example, some women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which is a depression associated with premenstrual syndrome, and new mothers can sometimes develop postpartum depression. Talking to your doctor can help determine what type of treatment is recommended based on the cause of your depression.

Severity

The severity of the depression can also impact whether it will go away on its own. If the depression is mild, it may resolve itself without any type of formal treatment. If you have moderate or severe depression, additional treatment may be needed to get it to subside.

If you have been diagnosed with depression, the good news is that depression is a highly treatable illness. In fact, between 80% and 90% of people who get treatment notice improvements.

Treatment usually includes medication, therapy, or a combination of the two. Complementary treatments may also help. Herbal remedies, acupuncture, exercise, meditation, and massage have all been found to help ease depression.

If your depression seems to be interfering with your quality of life, your doctor can help you find the combination of treatments that works best for you.

Understanding Depression

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is the most common form of depression and can ebb and flow throughout a person's lifetime. Symptoms typically associated with MDD include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Significant changes in your weight or appetite
  • Sleep issues
  • Feeling tired or fatigued
  • Increased feelings of agitation
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, or making decisions

These symptoms must be present for at least two weeks before a diagnosis of MDD can be made. If depression persists for two years or more, persistent depressive disorder (PDD), also known as dysthymia, may be diagnosed. PDD affects roughly 3% of people in the United States, and females are diagnosed twice as often as males.

Why Treatment Is Important

While many medications, such as antibiotics, cure the illnesses they are designed to treat, antidepressants do not cure depression. Their effect is only temporary. This is because antidepressants work by changing the brain's chemistry, but only for as long as the person is taking them. They do not address the underlying causes of depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health shares that depression has a number of potential, and oftentimes complex, causes. Some may be genetic or biological and others may be environmental or psychological.

No matter the cause, untreated depression can be extremely debilitating to an individual, interfering with every part of life. In addition, severe depression can potentially lead to suicide if it does not receive immediate attention.

Depression has also been linked to a variety of physical health issues, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and other chronic disorders. In the case of heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes, depression may accelerate the progression of the disease.

Having depression can even make it more difficult to treat other medical illnesses because the lack of motivation and energy associated with depression makes it more difficult for patients to comply with their treatment regimens.

While it is possible that an individual episode of depression may go away on its own without treatment, there is no guarantee that things won't get worse before they get better. That is why it is important to seek immediate treatment at the first signs of depression.

Treatment Options

While not "curable," depression is quite treatable. So, there is no need to "buck up" and struggle through a depressive episode. While it might seem heroic to tough it out, it is not necessary, and in fact, it is dangerous to your health.

Current evidence suggests that someone who has had one episode of depression has a 50% risk of another. With each additional episode, this risk rises, increasing to 70% after a second episode and 90% after the third.

Getting the appropriate treatment can shorten the length and severity of the episode. Several options exist for providing this type of relief.

Medications

Antidepressants can start to relieve the symptoms of depression in as little as two to four weeks. This not only helps you begin to feel better, but can also potentially keep the depression from getting worse.

Research indicates that the more severe your depression, the more antidepressants can potentially help. Antidepressants can also help prevent relapses.

Some people fear taking antidepressants because they are concerned with how they will affect their day-to-day life. However, many of antidepressants' side effects subside as your body gets used to the medication. Continuing to take them as prescribed can help boost your mood and make it easier to deal with life's ups and downs.

Therapy

There are a couple types of therapy can help relieve feelings of depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one. A 2019 study found that this type of therapy may even provide good results when delivered via computer. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people learn how to change their thoughts in a way that more positively influences their behaviors and emotions.

Another therapy option is interpersonal therapy, which focuses on social roles and interpersonal interactions. This is considered a "time-limited" treatment, which generally means 12 to 16 weeks, and it is commonly used in mood disorders like MDD.

Complementary Treatments

The Cleveland Clinic indicates that several complementary treatment options show some benefit for depression. They include:

  • Herbal remedies such as St. John's wort and ginkgo biloba
  • Acupuncture
  • Reflexology
  • Meditation
  • Massage
  • Guided imagery
  • Yoga

Including these alternative remedies in your treatment plan may help you begin to feel better.

Self-Care

That said, self-care, such as sleeping well, eating a nutritious diet, and not misusing alcohol or drugs to cope can also help you feel better faster. Another form of self-care to consider is exercise.

Research shows that 20 to 40 minutes of exercise three times a week can help reduce depression symptoms, not only now but also long term. So, taking up walking, running, or joining a fitness class may help.

Many people with depression, however, understandably struggle with self-care during episodes. When this occurs, other treatment options may be required until your depression is at a level where self-care feels more manageable.

Press Play for Advice On Dealing With Depression

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A Combination Approach

You may even benefit from taking a combination approach, using two or more of these treatment options together to offer even more relief from your depression. One example of this would be taking a medication while also establishing a self-care routine. Another example could include medication with exercise and massage.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

A Word From Verywell

While it's not impossible that a particular episode of depression will go away on its own if given enough time, reaching out for help can get you feeling better faster. It can also potentially keep the depression from getting worse or affecting your physical health. Since depression is highly treatable, your doctor can help you find the best treatment option for you.

Plus, some forms of depression are simply harder to resolve. In cases such as these, you can't just "make it go away." Additional treatment may be necessary to help ease your type or severity of anxiety.

Besides, you deserve proper and individualized depression treatment. There is no harm or shame in asking someone to help you begin to feel better again.

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13 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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