What happens to depression without treatment?

  • Brief bouts of depression happen to many people, often when they are faced with stresses such as ending a relationship, losing a job, or having troubles solving a problem.
  • Often, people can get over depression with their own coping approaches, especially if the depression does not go on for too many weeks. Some people prefer to handle their own problems without seeing a professional.
  • Research suggests that if people do not seek treatment for depression (which has lasted for at least two weeks):
    • About 5 out of 10 will have recovered within three months of the start of the depression.
    • 6 out of 10 people will have recovered within six months.
    • However, for those who continue to experience depression beyond 6 months without treatment, recovery after this point is more limited.
    • About 2 out of 10 people will still be depressed two years later.
  • It can be more difficult to overcome depression on your own if the depression goes on for many weeks, or if it seems severe and interferes with your everyday life. It is usually better to get help early rather than waiting until the problem has gone on for a long time. This reduces the chance of more serious problems developing.
  • Depression is also more of a problem if you have had more than one period of depression over the years. In these situations, it can be very helpful to speak with someone about treatments for depression.
  • If you have repeated periods of depression over the years, treatment may reduce problems with depression in the future.
  • It is especially important to seek help if you start to feel hopeless, that life is not worth living, or if you have serious thoughts of ending your life.
  • There are many people you can speak to about depression, including your family doctor, another health care provider, a school counsellor, someone with the Mood Disorders Association or a telephone help line. It can be difficult to speak to someone about personal problems, but many people are familiar with depression and how to get help.

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