Some symptoms of depression may go away on their own. However, some people require treatment to help manage depression, depending on the severity and type of depression.

Depression is more than just feeling sad. It is a serious mental health disorder that can cause a person to experience symptoms that include feelings of hopelessness and sadness, changes in appetite or weight, and a lack of energy.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

This article discusses whether a person with depression can get better without treatment. It also considers how the type and severity of depression may influence recovery.

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It is possible for the symptoms of depression to improve without treatment. This may depend on the type of depression and its severity.

Studies show that the symptoms of depression can last for 10 months, on average, if no other conditions are present.

Many people choose to actively treat their depression using medications, psychotherapy, and other treatments. Depression may worsen without treatment.

Below are some factors that can affect how long depression may last.

Learn whether there is a cure for depression.

The type of depression a person has may influence how long it lasts. Types include:

Major depressive disorder (MDD)

MDD is also called “clinical depression.” If a person has MDD and does not receive treatment, their depressive episodes can last 6–12 months. MDD is a long-term, recurrent illness. The recurrence rate is approximately 50% after the first episode, 70% after the second episode, and 90% after the third episode.

Learn more about MDD here.

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD)

PDD is similar to MDD. The symptoms of PDD are often not as severe as those of MDD, though people with PDD often have longer depressive episodes. To receive a diagnosis of PDD, a person must have had symptoms of depression for at least 2 years.

Learn about the difference between MDD and PDD here.

Postpartum depression (PPD)

PPD occurs after giving birth and causes a person to have a persistent low mood. It can also develop during pregnancy. It is a common and potentially serious mental health condition that can occur within the first year of giving birth.

An older review states that symptoms of PPD can improve over time, with many cases of depression resolving after 3–6 months. However, the same review also stated that some cases of PPD continued beyond 6 months.

Learn more about PPD here.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

SAD is a type of depression that affects people during the winter and fall, with a few people experiencing it in the summer.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder causes alternating episodes of high and low mood. Studies suggest that symptoms of bipolar disorder can last between 8 and 12 weeks, though this can vary.

Learn more about bipolar disorder here.

The severity of depression may affect how long it lasts. If a person has mild depression, their symptoms may be less intense and intrusive than those of moderate or severe depression. Mild depression may also last for a shorter time than other forms.

A person with severe depression may find daily activities challenging. They may also have suicidal thoughts, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, or loss of pleasure. Severe depression may persist for longer than mild or moderate forms. Rates of severe depression increased between 2005 and 2016, with adults over 65 years experiencing significant increases.

Learn more about severe depression here.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR) states that a medical professional may diagnose depression if a person has symptoms of depression daily for at least 2 weeks in a row.

The DSM-5-TR states that the symptoms of a depressive episode are:

Learn more about depression here.

There are treatments available for different types and severity levels of depression, although they may not work for everyone. Treatment options include:


People commonly use antidepressants to treat depression. These drugs may improve how the brain uses certain chemicals to help control mood and stress.

Antidepressants often take time to work. A person may wait 4–8 weeks before feeling their effects.

Antidepressants may improve symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems before a person’s mood improves. A person should give their medication time to work before stopping or switching to another.

Common antidepressant medications include:

A person can talk with a doctor about the most suitable antidepressants for them.

Learn more about antidepressants here.


Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for depression. Also known as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy can help a person learn new ways of thinking and behaving and manage habits that may contribute to their depression.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common treatment option for people with depression.

CBT helps people identify the connection between their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. By working with a cognitive behavioral therapist, a person can use CBT to change harmful thoughts and behaviors.

According to a 2020 article, CBT is an effective treatment for depression. The authors show that CBT combined with medication has significantly better results than medication alone.

Another effective type of psychotherapy for depression is interpersonal therapy (IPT). This time-limited treatment emphasizes the role of interpersonal relationships in mental health.

IPT can help a person:

  • understand how their emotional issues affect their relationships and communication
  • learn how these problems affect their mood
  • learn how to improve relationships
  • learn how to better manage their emotions

Learn about 14 types of therapy here.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

During ECT, a medical professional sends an electric current through a person’s brain. This causes a brief generalized cerebral seizure. This can help change blood flow in the brain.

A 2022 review suggests that ECT is a highly effective treatment for depression.

Most people require several sessions of ECT before they experience any effects.

Learn more about ECT here.

Self-care and lifestyle changes

People can take steps to boost their mood and help ease the symptoms of depression. Strategies include:

  • being physically active
  • going to bed and waking up at a consistent time
  • eating regular, healthy meals
  • avoiding alcohol, nicotine, or recreational drugs
  • postponing important decisions, such as changing jobs, until depression symptoms have subsided
  • trying to connect and talk with people

Learn about foods that may help people with depression.

Depression can last several weeks to many years. A 2018 study in the Netherlands assessed the duration of major depressive episodes in people with a fairly new diagnosis of MDD. The researchers found that the average duration of depressive episodes was 3 months.

They also noted that:

  • 50% of people recovered within 3 months
  • 76% recovered within 12 months
  • almost 20% had not recovered at 24 months

Risk factors for having depression for longer were depression severity and comorbid PDD.

A person’s depression may improve with treatment, in response to lifestyle changes, or without any intervention at all.

A 2022 article notes that 70–80% of people with depression can significantly reduce their symptoms with appropriate treatment.

Depression is a serious mood disorder that can cause persistent sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness.

The symptoms can reduce in response to treatment. However, depression can go away on its own in some cases.

Depressive episodes can last for weeks to years. The type of depression a person has and its severity can affect how long it lasts.

For many people, treatment for depression helps their symptoms reduce in severity or clear completely. Treatment options include medication, psychotherapy, and ECT.