Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 11/4/2022
When we talk about depression, we’re not talking about feeling a little blue one day or down in the dumps after, well, getting dumped. We’re talking about the type of depression that is considered a mental health disorder.
It’s worth noting that this mental health condition is fairly common. Ten percent of American adults will have a depressive illness in their lives.
Depression negatively affects the way you think, feel and act in your daily life. Because of this, it’s important to address depression. But couldn’t it just go away on its own? Here, we answer that question — and talk about treatment options.
The truth is, people have different experiences with depression. A variety of things can impact how you react to depression and if it can go away on its own.
For example, there are many different types of depression. And depending on what kind you have, your depression may or may not go away on its own. Different types of depression include:
Major depressive disorder (MDD): Also called clinical depression, this is defined as depression that lasts longer than a few weeks. It’s often intense or severe.
Bipolar depression: When someone has bipolar disorder, they switch between times of feeling low and times of feeling manic or high-energy.
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD): Sometimes called dysthymia, this tends to be less severe than MDD. That said, people with PDD experience symptoms for at least two years — if not longer.
Postpartum depression: If you experience sadness, mood swings and intense loneliness after giving birth, you may have postpartum depression (PPD). It affects one in seven new parents. PPD is different than the shorter-lasting and less severe "baby blues."
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): Think of this as an extreme form of PMS. It comes on in the days or weeks before a woman’s period starts.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): This form of depression involves significant mood changes with the changing seasons. It usually begins in the late fall or early winter months and lasts until spring.
Some of these types of depression will certainly require treatment. Others may vary in severity, which could determine the need for treatment.
For example, if a woman has very mild postpartum depression, it should go away as her hormones rebalance. Severe depression tends not to go away on its own and will need treatment to address it.
So, when might depression go away on its own? The most likely types of depression to go away on their own are more situational or mild than others.
As mentioned above, postpartum depression comes on after giving birth. PPD is usually caused by hormones. When you are pregnant, your levels of estrogen and progesterone go way up. Soon after having your baby, those hormone levels drop to what they were pre-pregnancy. That hormonal shift can affect your mood. Plus, having a newborn can be challenging. You may not get a lot of sleep and may feel stressed over taking care of a little human. All of these things can increase your risk of depression after pregnancy.
A 2014 review of studies seems to point towards PPD symptoms improving over time for many people. Often, symptoms resolve in three to six months. That said, the review also noted that many people deal with PPD long after six months.
It’s important to say that postpartum depression can be severe and there are treatments available to alleviate symptoms. If you are navigating PPD and feel like you may hurt yourself or your child, seek mental health help immediately.
Similarly, SAD is associated with a certain time period. People usually feel the symptoms of this disorder from late fall or early winter through spring.
Researchers don’t know exactly what causes SAD, but suspect that those with it have reduced activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Sunlight may boost serotonin, so the thinking is that the lack of sun in the colder months can have an effect on some people’s mood and depression levels. Then, as the seasons change and the sun starts to show itself more, SAD may go away on its own.
While certain types of depression may go away on their own, many do not. Because of this, treatment is crucial for many people.
Take a look at the below signs of depression and ask yourself if you really want to just accept these, instead of getting needed treatment.
Feeling sad or hopeless
Not enjoying what you once did
Low energy levels
Sleep issues, like not being able to sleep or sleeping more than usual
Over- or under-eating
Thoughts of self harm
These symptoms of depression sound pretty miserable, right? Some are even dangerous. Because of this, treatment is very important.
Oh, and it works. Between 80 and 90 percent of people with depression will respond well to treatment at some point in the course of their mental health issues.
So, now that you know that treating depression works, you probably want to know how to treat it. The kind of depression you have will determine the best course of treatment.
For MDD, there are two approaches that are commonly used — therapy and medication.
The type of therapy often recommended is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There is even research that supports it as a treatment for depression.
In CBT, you will work with a mental health professional to look at your life and find patterns that may not help your depression or make it worse. Then, you’ll come up with strategies to make positive changes.
Another option for the treatment of depression? Antidepressants. These prescription medications can be used to treat depression on their own or in conjunction with therapy.
It’s best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine which type of antidepressant is best for you. They may suggest either a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (like sertraline) or a serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (like venlafaxine).
If those kinds of antidepressants don’t work for you, two other types that your healthcare provider may prescribe are tricyclic antidepressants or bupropion, which is an atypical antidepressant.
You will likely need to take an antidepressant for about four to eight weeks before you start to notice an improvement in your depressive symptoms.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could snap your fingers and — poof! — your depression would go away. Or, at the very least, you knew for sure that it would go away on its own. Unfortunately, these things aren’t realistic.
Generally speaking, depression doesn’t go away on its own, though there are a few types of depression that may wane without treatment. Examples of these are postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder. It is possible these conditions could resolve themselves. However, it’s also possible they won’t and that you’ll need help.
If you are dealing with moderate or severe major depression, or bipolar disorder, seeking treatment is the best thing to do. That way, you’ll be able to deal with your depression symptoms, improve your quality of life and get back to feeling good.
To treat depression symptoms, you can look into therapy or antidepressant medications. Hers offers online consultations with mental health professionals. This way you can easily talk about depression treatment.