In this post, we will be answering the question “how long does it take to get over depression”, a brief introduction about depression, it’s signs and symptoms, major classifications of depression, diagnosing depression, determinants of recovery from depression and some frequently asked questions related to the topic.
How long does it take to get over depression
- At least 2 weeks for Clinical Depression
- At least 2 years for Chronic Depression/ Persistent Depression
- Around 8 months if the depressive episodes remain untreated.
- A single depressive episode can last ranging from weeks to months depending on different factors.
Depression is a mood disorder where the individual experiences prolonged sadness, lethargic, worthiness, helplessness and melancholic that interferes or hampers their daily functioning.
The DSM 5 criteria for Depression is depressed mood or loss of interest during the same 2-week period coupled with weight loss, change in appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia, psychomotor agitation, feeling of worthlessness, lack of concentration and suicidal ideation.
Classification of Depression
Based on the severity of the symptoms and their duration, two major types of depression are Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression and Chronic Depressive Disorder/ Dysthymia. Apart from these, there are Bi-Polar Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Major Depressive Disorder
To be diagnosed with MDD, there should be five depressive symptoms that last for at least 2 weeks. Adding onto that, there should either be a depressed mood or loss of interest. MDD is a periodic or episodic disorder where the symptoms go on and off over time. Along with it, suicide ideation and thought of death are common.
The prevalence of depression is 7% with higher prevalence in 60 years or more.
Persistent Depression Disorder, Dysthymia
One of the essential features of Dysthymia is a depressed mood that lasts throughout the day for at least 2years, in case of children the duration is for 1 year. Along with depressed mood, they should also experience two of the six symptoms (poor appetite, sleep disturbance, low energy, low self-esteem, trouble in concentrating and hopelessness)
It has an early and insidious onset. It is twice more common in women than in men. Dysthymia is common in the general population affecting 5-6% of the population.
Two types of Bi-Polar disorder are, BP-1 and BP-2. The manic symptom is the defining feature of the two and the severity of the two differentiate these. Bi-Polar 1 is known as Manic-Depressive Disorder where there is a single episode of mania during their lifetime however, they may or may not have a depressive episode. While Bi-Polar 2 is characterised by hypomanic (milder version of Manic) episodes with Major Depressive Episodes.
Bipolar 1 Disorder is much rarer than MDD and the prevalence rate is 0.6% and Bi-Polar affects somewhere between 0.4 to 2%.
It is also a chronic mood disorder where the proposed symptom (numerous episodes of hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms) last for at least 2 years. They experience frequent alternating mild symptoms of Mania and Depression. People with cyclothymia have a high risk of developing Mania and Major Depression.
About 3-5% of the psychiatric patient is diagnosed with Cyclothymic Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder.
It is known by recurrent depressive episodes occurring typically in winter.
The severity of the episode ranges from mild to moderate and in the worse case, have the risk of suicide as well. It is more prevalent in people in the northern part of the world than in summer. The change in melatonin is responsible for this episode, they show more change in melatonin than the rest.
SAD Symptom is similar to those of Depression except that it coincides with seasons.
It is a blend of physical, emotional and behavioural changes that a woman undergoes after giving birth. The diagnosis is based on the length of time between their onset and delivery and the severity of depression. Some of the symptoms are difficulty in sleeping, appetite change, fatigue, decreased libido and frequent mood change. It generally begins within the 4 weeks after delivery.
Almost 80% of new mothers are diagnosed with this depression and it follows after 15% of birth.
Sign and symptoms of Depression
Some of the sign and symptoms associated with Depression are:
- Depressed and Low mood
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Worthlessness and Helplessness
- Lack of concentration
- Thoughts on ending life
- Difficulty in sleep
- Irritability and Agitation
- Fluctuation in appetite
- Difficulty in decision making.
- Diurnal Mood
- Significant weight loss
- Lost motivation
- Loss of energy
- Recurrent thoughts on death
- Excessive guilt
There are different ways through which we can assess depression in an individual. It can be a physical test, psychological test and medical screenings.
Some of the most commonly used tests to assess depressive episode or diagnosis are:
Patient Health Questionnaire
It is a 9-item questionnaire which is self-administered. It is usually used to screen the severity and diagnosis of Depression.
Beck Depression Inventory
Beck Depression Inventory is one of the most widely used tests in measuring and studying the symptoms of depression. It contains a 21-item self-report inventory that measures the symptoms of depression in an individual with four choices.
Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression
It is multiple-choice questionnaires with 17 items, it is used to assess the level of depressive symptoms and as a guide for recovery purposes.
How long does Depression last
To be diagnosed with clinical depression, one needs to experience the symptoms of depression mentioned above for at least a two week period.
While depression can also be recurrent where people who already had an episode of depression undergo another depressive episode in their lifetime.
Unlike other physical injuries or illnesses for which there is specific time-bound within which the recovery or healing takes place, recovering from depression is not easy and it’s one of the most challenging and hard things to tackle.
The duration and longevity of depressive episodes and symptoms differ individually and it is determined by different factors. For some individuals, it takes weeks while for others this can go on for months.
And if the symptoms of depression remain for too long without any intervention and treatment, the individual finds it hard to figure out their feelings and their premorbid personalities. They often forget what normal feels like resulting in a harder and tougher recovery phase.
However, in all cases, depressive symptoms don’t fully or entirely go away in 20-30% of the people. If the depression remains untreated, in an average spell, it lasts for about eight months. Even the symptoms of depression get worse and result in significant impairment in their functioning, leading to self-harming behaviour and interfere with their social relationship.
Some people suffer a single episode of depression and manage to recover well from it, in contrast, there are at least 50% who have had a depressive episode once in their lifetime and go on with another episode. 80% of those with second episodes of depression also had to battle with a third depressive episode, thus making it worse.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Determinants of recovery from Depression
There are different factors that play a role in recovery from depression and to prevent another episode of depression in an individual already battling with depression.
Although it is known that depression doesn’t control and overshadow all your life, one needs to be cautious and aware of the symptoms, treatments sought and the consequent recovery process.
Knowing the timing of life
One should be aware of the times of their life when they feel more vulnerable and more likely to feel low and depressed. It is during such time that one needs to seek proper help and treatment from their therapist. Getting a quick and sooner help makes the recovery process better and faster.
Ensuring that one seeks help and takes proper treatment during the vulnerable days reduces the severity of depressive symptoms and makes the recovery quicker and rapid.
The demand to feel well and better again
The more one demands to feel better and grateful for the gradual recovery process, it speeds up the healing process. Constantly feeling unmotivated and unhappy tends to make the treatment process longer and as a result, a slower recovery.
Opting for other treatments when there is no major change
It is not enough to just feel less miserable and distressing, one deserves a full recovery from this phase of prolonged sadness, depressed mood, anhedonia etc. And everyone who was diagnosed with depression and is battling with depressive symptoms deserves to feel better.
Thud, when a treatment isn’t working well and there is no noticeable change and recovery, one can always opt to other treatment methods such as medication, therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness-based therapy etc.
There are different ways to recover and explore all the options and then deciding on one that results in most or optimal recovery should be followed.
Settling onto the feeling of being okay
When the mindset of the individual who is dealing with the depressive symptoms is solely to feel okay and less miserable, the treatment tends to be shorter, however, there is relapse and one has to deal with another depressive episode.
In that case, the goal should always be to fully recover from depression and leave no symptoms untreated so that the individual doesn’t have to go through another phase of depression.
Effectiveness of the therapy and treatment
One shouldn’t rely simply on one therapy since it might result in worsening of symptoms. The treatment plan should always be individualised and customised based on the severity of the symptoms and level of impairment that was caused by the symptoms in the individual. It is thus vital to make sure that the individual is well informed and educated about the treatment provided.
A right treatment makes a greater difference and results in speedy recovery.
What we recommend for Depression
If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.
FAQs: how long does it take to get over depression
How long does long term depression last?
Major Depression as per DSM 5, the symptoms last for at least for 2 weeks while in case of chronic depression, the symptoms last for at least two years. The latter is believed to be more severe.
What age has the highest rate of depression?
The prevalence is depression is found to be highest in people belonging to the age group of 18-25.
What causes long term depression?
The long term depression is caused by factors such as chemical imbalance, chronic stress, genetic influence and other overlapping mental disorders.
What is the most serious form of Depression?
Amongst the different types of depression, Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression is the most severe type which is known by prolonged or sustained sad feeling, melancholia, anhedonia and fatigability.
How long does it take to be depressed?
According to the standard guideline laid by American Psychiatric Association, the duration of depression should at least be 2 weeks for a proper diagnosis.
BetterHelp: A Better Alternative
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In this post, we answered the question “how long does it take to get over depression”, a brief introduction about depression, it’s signs and symptoms, major classifications of depression, diagnosing depression, determinants of recovery from depression and looked into some frequently asked questions related to the topic.
Links for more information
Casarella, J. (2020). Depression Recovery: An Overview. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/depression/recovery-overview
Herndon, J. (2018). How Long Does Depression Last? healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-does-depression-last