Does Depression Go Away on Its Own With Time?

There's no cure for this chronic disorder

Does Depression Go Away With Time?
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Many people with depression wonder if their symptoms will go away on their own with time. While time heals a number of problems, it's no cure for depression.

Understanding Major Depressive Disorder 

Major depressive disorder is a chronic condition that can ebb and flow throughout a person's lifetime.  And, 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. 

In fact, the American Psychiatric Association makes the recommendation that if it's a person's first episode of depression, he should continue to take his medication for about four to five months after his 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 with every aspect 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. In addition, 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. That said, self-care, such as sleeping well, eating well and not abusing alcohol or drugs to cope has helped some individuals. Many people with depression, however, 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.

So, while it is possible 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.


Dunkin, Mary Anne.  What's Stopping You From Seeing a Doctor About Depression?  WebMD. WebMD, LLC.     Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on September 14, 2012.   Accessed:  January 25, 2016.

"How Long Does It Take for Antidepressants to Work?"  NHS Choices.  NHS England.  Reviewed: January 4, 2016.    Accessed:  January 25, 2016.

"Maintenance Medications for Depression."  WedMD Medical Reference.WebMD, LLC.    Reviewed by: Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 11, 2014  Accessed:  January 25, 2016.

Tartakovsky, Margarita.  "Top Relapse Triggers for Depression and How to Prevent Them."  Psych Central.  Psych Central.  Last reviewed:  June 8, 2013. Accessed:  January 25, 2016.

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