How long does depression last? The average time frame for depression, plus effective coping strategies

Depression is an extremely prevalent issue around the world. However, despite there being common symptoms, it often looks different to everyone that struggles with it. There are differing types of depression, as well as symptoms, intensity, duration, and more. 

Depression is pervasive, and an episode can last anywhere from a number of days to over a year. With help, support, and treatment, people can heal from their depression and live happy lives.

What Is the Average Length of Depression? How Long Does a Depressive Episode Last?

It’s difficult to say how long depression lasts, since the average length of depression may differ from person to person and can be influenced by the intensity of depressive symptoms and what treatment is attempted. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), categorizes depression based on time, symptoms, severity, and functioning. On average, though, a depressive episode is thought to last six to eight months.

Sometimes, a person may go through a depressive spell or experience persistent low mood for a few days but then bounce back. However, if a depressive episode lasts longer than that, that can be a sign that you have recurrent depression and professional help is needed. 

If depression lasts more than two weeks and fits five or more of the following criteria, you may be diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). These criteria include: 

  • Depressed mood and crying/tearfulness nearly every day
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
  • Loss of interest in engaging in activities that would normally feel pleasurable or enjoyable
  • Decreased appetite or increased appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Feeling slow moving, restless, or fatigued
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Decreased concentration
  • Thoughts of suicide 

MDD has three categories—mild, moderate, and severe—based on intensity of the depressive symptoms. If you are having issues with low mood and depression or think you might have MDD, clinical depression, or a mood disorder, talk to a mental health professional about your symptoms. They can offer qualified support and guidance to you and get you back on the road to mental wellness.

How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?

Postpartum depression (PPD) can last anywhere from months to years depending on its intensity, treatment, and other factors. However, once the symptoms progress past a year, mental health experts may begin to call it major depressive disorder rather than PPD, since PPD and MDD are essentially the same but only one has the specific factor of pregnancy. 

How Long Will It Take Me to Recover from Depression? Do You Ever Fully Get Rid of Depression?

The duration of depression and its recovery process varies from person to person. At times, individuals may experience cyclical depressive symptoms which may come and go in waves. Other times, one might experience depression on a monthly or infrequent basis, such as experiencing a persistent depressive mood while grieving the loss of a loved one. Once having gone through difficult emotions of grief, they can reach a period of acceptance and live life without being plagued by depressive symptoms. It’s even possible to be depressed without realizing it.

Depression looks and feels unique for everyone, but help from a therapist or psychiatrist is often the best way to treat any pervasive symptoms. Some might only need to see someone for a few months and feel like they’ve overcome or learned to manage their depression. Others might require long-term help and support in order to stay on top of their symptoms. 

However it looks for you, you do not have to deal with this alone. With support, you can learn to manage and overcome your symptoms, and even prevent them from coming back with the same intensity.

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How Do Most People Cope with Depression?

Most people cope with depression in different ways. Many people seek comfort and peace in activities, hobbies, or coping skills. Some examples of common effective coping skills for depression include:

  • Practicing self-care
  • Talking to someone in your support network, like a friend or a loved one
  • Journaling about your life, thoughts, and feelings
  • Exercising and moving your body
  • Going outside
  • Incorporating healthy snacks into your day
  • Meditating and practicing mindfulness

Trying one or more of these practices can help boost your mental health and break you out of the cycle of depression. Even if these tactics don’t speak to you personally, try something similar that you think might make you happy or feel fulfilled. Everyone has different needs, so each person’s healing activities will differ accordingly.

Will Depression Fix Itself?

In most cases, no, depression will not fix itself. It’s recommended that, if you’re feeling a persistent low mood and think you may be struggling with depression, to talk to a mental health professional. A mental health professional like a therapist or psychiatrist will provide you with a safe, nonjudgmental space to talk out how you’re feeling. They will also work with you to create a treatment plan that works best for you.

How Do I Stop Being So Depressed? What Can I Do to Be Happy Again?

As much as you might want to, you can’t really “just stop being depressed.” The process of healing from depression takes time and patience. 

Depression has many causes, which means it has a variety of effective treatments. Sometimes our genetic make-up can predetermine how we internalize or process emotions as well as how susceptible we are to depression. Most of the time, learning about depression can be a building of awareness for people who experience depression.

When feeling depressed, most things don’t feel like sunshine, rainbows, and happiness, but at times feeling low can help us to appreciate the times when we feel joy. When depressed, it may help to look for the joy in the small things each day; making a mental gratitude list can help you find meaning and joy in the day. Soak up some sun; plan some fun activities to look forward to; look for how you can create more meaning in your life; and connect with your supports, nature, and your surroundings through mindfulness. 

Be kind to yourself, and know that healing is rarely a linear process. There will be better days and some not so good ones, but as long as you continue to commit yourself to getting better, you are doing the best you can.

Table of contents

What Is the Average Length of Depression? How Long Does a Depressive Episode Last?

How Long Will It Take Me to Recover from Depression? Do You Ever Fully Get Rid of Depression?

How Do Most People Cope with Depression?

Will Depression Fix Itself?

How Do I Stop Being So Depressed? What Can I Do to Be Happy Again?

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Christine Ridley, Resident in Counseling in Winston-Salem, NC

Christine Ridley, LCSW

Christine Ridley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in adolescent and adult anxiety, depression, mood and thought disorders, addictive behaviors, and co-dependency issues.

Laura Harris, LCMHC in Durham, NC

Laura Harris, LCMHC

Laura Harris is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). She specializes in anger, anxiety, depression, stress management, coping strategies development, and problem-solving skills.

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Hannah DeWitt

Hannah is a Junior Copywriter at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor’s degree in English: Creative Writing with a minor in Spanish from Seattle Pacific University. Previously, Hannah has worked in copywriting positions in the car insurance and trucking sectors doing blog-style and journalistic writing and editing.

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The information on this page is not intended to replace assistance, diagnosis, or treatment from a clinical or medical professional. Readers are urged to seek professional help if they are struggling with a mental health condition or another health concern.

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