Depression typically lasts for several months, but it can also develop into a chronic condition that lasts for years in some cases. Fortunately, treatment can help.

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.

What Is a Depressive Episode?

A depressive episode occurs when someone experiences five or more depressive symptoms that last for a period of two weeks or longer. Depression symptoms that can be considered part of a depressive episode include: 

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of pleasure in activities
  • Loss of interest in daily activity
  • Change in weight or appetite
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Low self-esteem or self-worth
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicide ideation or attempt

A depressive episode can be brought on by a variety of different reasons, including major life events or medical illnesses. A person will not meet the criteria for a depressive episode if symptoms are caused by substance abuse or a reaction to a prescribed medication. 

How Long Do Depressive Episodes Last?

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

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

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.

Can Depression Be Cured?

When someone is experiencing a depressive episode, it can feel like the depression may never end. Unfortunately, there is technically no cure for depression, as it’s always possible for the condition to occur again in the future. However, there are many different therapeutic approaches that can help treat depression and alleviate the symptoms. 

The focus of depression treatment should be to build coping mechanisms and support systems that can be used when depression symptoms occur. It is important to remember that no two people have the same experience with depression, so depression treatment should be tailored specifically to each person. 

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 include:

  • 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!

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Danielle Boland
Danielle is licensed clinical social worker, currently living and practicing in central Connecticut. Read more

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.