Depression can last months or years, but getting treatment can improve symptoms quickly. Learn how to treatment can reduce the duration of depression.

Depression is a serious mood disorder characterized by a low mood (i.e., sadness). Those affected by depression may wonder, how long depression lasts. Every case is different, but on average, a depressive episode can last several months. For some people, an episode may be shorter or much longer. If left untreated, depression can become long-lasting or chronic. It is important for individuals with depression to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Article at a Glance:

  • There is no average amount of time depression lasts because each person’s experience is very different.
  • Depression is unlikely to go away on its own without treatment.
  • Managing chronic depression often requires medication, therapy, self-care and a dedication to healthy behaviors like eating well and exercising.
  • Everyone responds differently to depression treatments and may require trying several options before finding one that works.

Risk Factors for Recurrent Depressive Episodes

Risk factors for depression can include a combination of genetic and environmental factors as well as personal experiences, like stressful events or trauma.

Some examples of risk factors for recurrent depressive episodes:

  • How old the person was when they had their first depressive episode
  • The severity of the first depressive episode
  • The presence of other mental health problems
  • Family history of depression
  • The presence of stressful life events

There is no average duration for major depressive disorder as a whole since every person’s experience and response to treatment is different. Depressive events must last at least two weeks to meet the diagnostic criteria to qualify as a depressive episode.

Studies found that the average duration of a major depressive episode is between three or four months, while other research has estimated that the average duration is 6 to 10.7 months.

Can Depression Go Away on Its Own?

Does depression last forever, or will it go away after a while? Depression is a serious mental illness and is unlikely to go away or cure itself. Without treatment, depression can last for years or decades and can worsen over time.

For people concerned about whether their depression will ever go away, it’s important to reach out and seek professional treatment. Getting treatment can help shorten a depressive episode and reduce the risk of future episodes occurring. Receiving treatment like medication or cognitive behavioral therapy can lead to an improvement in a matter of weeks.

Managing Chronic Depression

Chronic depression can be severe. If left untreated, chronic depression can worsen physical and mental health and increase the risk of suicidal thoughts. Chronic depression can last a long time — up to decades — but can be improved through adequate management or treatment. Managing chronic depression may vary slightly from person to person.

Common ways to manage chronic depression:
  • Medication
  • Therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy or counseling)
  • Self-care
  • Healthy behaviors like eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep

Research has shown that combining medication and therapy leads to quicker remission of chronic depression than either approach on its own. In more severe or treatment-resistant cases, treatments like deep brain stimulation might be an option.

Related Topic: Finding Support for Addiction & Mental Health through Teletherapy

Feelings of depression or anxiety can lead to suicidal thinking. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Why Treatment is Key

Getting help for depression can improve health and level of functioning. Treatment can also reduce the amount of time that depression lasts along with reducing the severity of symptoms and the risk of recurrence.

There is no single effective treatment for depression and the success rate of each treatment varies from person to person. Some people might respond well to medication, while others may see more improvements through online counseling and therapy. Successful treatment for depression may require trying several different options.

Depression is serious and can impact every aspect of a person’s life. However, depression is treatable and there is hope for recovery.

If you’re looking for healthy ways to manage depression, the Nobu app can help. It is free and for anyone that is looking to reduce anxiety, work through depression, build self-esteem, get aftercare following treatment, attend teletherapy sessions and so much more. Download the Nobu app today!

Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of editing experience, Tom is a content specialist for Advanced Recovery Systems, where he edits the great research articles, news releases and blog posts that are produced every day. Read more
Sarah Dash
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Sarah Dash, PHD
Dr. Sarah Dash is a postdoctoral research fellow based in Toronto. Sarah completed her PhD in Nutritional Psychiatry at the Food and Mood Centre at Deakin University in 2017. Read more

Burcusa, Stephanie; William, Iacono. “Risk for recurrence in depression.” Clinical Psychology Review, 2007. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Spijker, Jan; et al. “Duration of major depressive episodes in the Duration of major depressive episodes in the general population: results fromThe Netherlands general population: results from The Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS).” British Journal of Psychiatry, 2002. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Patten, Scott B. “A major depression prognosis calculator based on episode duration.” Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, 2006. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Ten Have, M. “Duration of major and minor depressive episodes and associated risk indicators in a psychiatric epidemiological cohort study of the general population.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 2017. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Dimidjian, Sona. “Randomized Trial of Behavioral Activation, Cognitive Therapy, and Antidepressant Medication in the Acute Treatment of Adults With Major Depression.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2006. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Manber, Rachel; et al. “Faster remission of chronic depression with combined psychotherapy and medication than with each therapy alone.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2008. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Mayberg, Helen S; et al. “Deep brain stimulation for treatment-resistant depression.” Neuron, March 2005. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Holtzheimer, Paul; Helen, Mayberg. “Stuck in a rut: rethinking depression and its treatment.” Trends in Neurosciences, 2011. Accessed September 23, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.