Depression: How Long Will this Last?

Depression: How Long Will this Last?

Depression, like any other health condition, will manifest itself differently in every individual. Symptoms, duration, intensity and experience of a depressive episode is unique to each person.  Appropriate and effective treatment for sufferers of depression will vary. 

It is normal to question or feel worried about how long we will be depressed.  You may wonder "will I ever feel normal again".  Other thoughts include, “I don’t feel like myself” or “I’m afraid I will never be myself again”.

There are many contributing factors to uncertainty and fear about experiencing a depressive episode.  Symptoms of depression can be frightening.  They include fatigue, reduced motivation, detachment, lack of joy and hopelessness.  These feelings exacerbate our fears about our future and recovery.  Often a “dark cloud” feels over us and we experience feeling detached from work and loved ones.  We can be unable to enjoy activities we once appreciated.  Each of these aspects of depression can create a block to believing that life or our emotional state will return to what we once knew.    

Further exacerbating worries about recovering from depression include a misconception that depression is a choice or state of mind.  While moods, or reactions to emotions can be manipulated by thoughts or controlled responses, clinical depression is a health condition that impacts individuals both physically and mentally. Mental health conditions do affect the mind and thinking process, but this does not suggest that mental health conditions are elected or controlled by one’s will power. 

Misconceptions about depression and other mental health conditions can exacerbate symptoms, leaving one feeling that if they were stronger or had more self-control, they would not be depressed.

It is important to understand that clinical depression is a health condition: it can be as disabling as any other health condition, even life-threatening.  Depression is both a physical health condition as much as it is a mental health condition.  The physical symptoms of depression such as fatigue, joint pain, and insomnia, are just as real and disabling as mental symptoms including sadness, irritability, or hopelessness.

It is helpful to understand that recovering from depression is similar to recovering from any major health condition.  Imagine that you are recovering from a knee surgery or heart attack.  If so, would the expectation about work productivity or participating at home be the same?  Can you accept your doctor's statement that the recovery time will vary and not to rush back to stressful routines?

With mental health conditions, we tend to judge ourselves for negative feelings or not coping better.  Further confusing, loved ones often try to help with statements such as “cheer up” or “what do you have to be depressed about…? You have a good life”.  While these statements may be intended to be helpful, they frequently have the opposite impact for sufferers of depression.  Remarks such as these can reinforce that the depression is a choice or elected mood.  Patience and simple supportive statements such as “I’m sorry you are feeling so badly”  Or” let me know if there is anything I can do to help” are far more effective and well received.

The fastest way to recovery from episodes of depression include medical and social support, rest, healthy diet, adequate sleep, and minimizing stress, When you are ready, slowly add activities back into your life.  These recommendations are similar to most comprehensive guidelines for recovering from other health conditions such as the flu, surgery, or traumatic life events.

Nearly every individual experiences a major depressive episode in their lifetime. 

Understanding and having empathy for others and yourself during a time of vulnerability is essential to recovery.  With ample information about depression and treatment available, seeking help from family and professionals will help speed up the recovery process and is reassuring that it will not last forever.  Most patients committed to recovery find themselves feeling better in six weeks to three months.  However, depending on your diagnosis, individual circumstances, and the type or severity of your depression, your recovery time will vary. 

Allow yourself the time to recover and accept the help you need.




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