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.

Questions to Assess Your Improvement

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

Are your symptoms improving?

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.

Are you better able to function in your daily activities?

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.

Are you experiencing any unbearable side effects from your medication?

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.

Are you experiencing any 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.

Are you making needed changes in 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.

Depression Symptoms to Look Out 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:

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

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

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

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.

Depression Discussion Guide

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

Mind Doc Guide

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.

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