How to Know When Your Depression Is Getting Better

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As you begin treatment for depression, it may take a bit of time for you to feel like you're back to your normal self. If your progress is slow, it's natural to question whether you're really improving. To help you assess your progress, work with your doctor to set some goals to use as benchmarks.

Signs of Depression Recovery

Some measures that you can use to determine your treatment progress can be found in asking yourself the following questions.

Improving Symptoms

One way you can judge whether or not your symptoms are improving is to periodically take a test like the Wakefield Questionnaire, which asks a series of questions about your depression symptoms and then provides you with a numerical score. By comparing changes in your score over time, you can see objectively whether your symptoms are indeed improving.

Improved Daily Function

If you're having an easier time functioning in your daily activities, such as getting up to go to work or maintaining your personal hygiene, this is a good indicator that you're on your way to recovery.

In order to assess your progress in these areas, you might want to set easily measurable goals for yourself, such as missing fewer days of work or taking a shower every day.

Reduced Side Effects

Although relief from depression symptoms is the primary goal of treatment, medication can detract from your quality of life if you are experiencing unbearable medication side effects. An additional goal as your doctor fine-tunes your treatment plan is to come up with a medication regimen that minimizes these side effects while still providing you with adequate control of your depression symptoms.

Limited Relapses

Another important goal of depression treatment is to make sure that you do not experience future episodes of depression. If your symptoms remain under control over time, this is an important indicator that you're getting better.

One way to achieve this goal is with healthy changes to your lifestyle. Although depression is an illness with a biological basis, the way you live your life can increase your stress level and trigger a relapse in your condition.

In order to prevent a recurrence of your illness, it's important that you make necessary changes in your life, such as living a healthy lifestyle, minimizing stress, and improving how you relate to others.

How to Track Your Progress

In addition to working closely with your doctor, it's important to keep track of your depression symptoms. Journaling is an easy and effective way to track your progress, explore your emotions, and manage your feelings of depression.

Try using a journal to record your experience with medication as well as self-help strategies. For example, you can use your journal to record what type of activity you tried (such as exercise, meditation, or listening to your favorite music), writing down how you felt before and after, and noting what you like or didn’t like.

Reviewing past journal entries can also bring self-awareness to your depression triggers as well as any regressions in your progress. But do your best not to get discouraged or down on yourself if you are not getting any better—beating yourself up will only make you feel worse.

Instead, consider sharing your journal entries with your mental health care professional, so you can work together to adjust medication or try different strategies to better manage any symptoms of depression. It may take time, but with the right combination of treatment, support, and lifestyle habits, you can feel like your old self again.

Depression Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor's appointment.

Mind Doc Guide

Depression Symptoms to Look For

If you think you are depressed or you're being treated for depression and don't feel any better, watch for these common symptoms of depression:

  • Crying for no apparent reason
  • Difficulty concentrating or staying focused
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Feeling sad, worthless, and/or guilt
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Having difficulty doing normal daily activities
  • Irritability
  • Losing joy in your daily activities or passions
  • Overwhelming feelings of anxiety
  • Physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Thinking about or trying to commit suicide
  • Waking during the night or early in the morning

If you have these symptoms for two weeks or more or if you are being treated for depression and these symptoms are not getting any better, be sure to consult a mental health professional for help. Untreated and undiagnosed depression can get worse and stop you from living a fulfilling life.

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.

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