Does Depression Go Away on Its Own With Time?

Many people with clinical depression wonder if their symptoms will go away on their own with time. The old adage "time heals all wounds" may have some truth behind it, but it's no cure for depression. This serious illness brings on feelings of hopelessness and helplessness which interfere with every aspect of a person's life including work, productivity, and relationships—and it cannot be "willed away" or "waited out."

If you have a true depression, you need to get proper treatment in order to get better. You should not suffer needlessly when depression is a highly treatable illness. In fact, 80 percent of people who get treatment feel better. Treatment usually includes medication, therapy, or a combination of the two.

Understanding Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder is a chronic condition that can ebb and flow throughout a person's lifetime. 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. This is why prompt treatment at the first signs of the illness, with continued maintenance treatment in order to prevent relapse, is the best course of action to take.

The American Psychiatric Association recommends that for your first episode of depression, you should continue to take your medication for about four to five months after your symptoms go into remission. If it's a repeat episode, then this recommendation gets bumped up to an even longer length of time, with some people being advised to remain on medication indefinitely.

Why Treating Depression Is Key

While many medications, such as antibiotics, actually cure the illnesses they are designed to treat, antidepressants do not cure depression. They only correct the underlying chemical imbalance for as long as a person is taking them. Even though a particular episode of depression might pass, this does not mean that a person's depression has been cured. The underlying vulnerability is always there, waiting to be triggered by the right set of circumstances.

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.

Although depression has been most strongly linked to heart disease, research indicates that it may also be linked to other illnesses, such as obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. In the case of heart disease and diabetes, it appears that having depression increases a person's risk for acquiring these illnesses. Having depression can make it more difficult to treat other medical illnesses because the lack of motivation and energy associated with depression make it more difficult for patients to comply with their treatment regimens.

Effective Treatments Are Available

Depression is quite treatable so there is no need to "buck up" and suffer through an episode. While it might seem heroic to tough it out, it is not necessary and in fact, it is dangerous to your health. That said, self-care, such as sleeping well, eating well, and not abusing alcohol or drugs to cope can absolutely help you feel better faster. Many people with depression, however, understandably struggle with self-care during episodes.

Getting treated could shorten the length and severity of the episode. Antidepressants can start to relieve the symptoms of depression in as little as two to four weeks before the illness has time to linger and possibly grow worse.


Depression tends to be recurrent. Statistics indicate that a person who has had one episode of depression has a 50 percent risk of having another one. As a person has more episodes, this risk rises, with a person having a 70 percent risk of another episode after they've had the second one and a 90 percent risk if they've had three or more episodes.

A Word From Verywell

While it's not impossible that a particular episode depression will go away on its own if given enough time, there are some very compelling and important reasons why a person should not hesitate to get professional help. Timely and adequate treatment should always be the goal when someone presents with symptoms of depression.

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Article Sources
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  • "Maintenance Medications for Depression." WedMD Medical Reference.WebMD, LLC.

  • Mental Health America. Co-Occurring Disorders And Depression.

  • Tartakovsky, Margarita. "Top Relapse Triggers for Depression and How to Prevent Them."  Psych Central.  Psych Central.