Does Depression Ever Go Away If Left Untreated?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated April 2, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Living with a mental health condition like depression can sometimes make everyday life seem more challenging. While clinical depression isn't something that you can just wish away, those diagnosed with depression can take relief from knowing there are lots of treatment options available to help relieve depression symptoms. Some types of depression, such as situational depression, can go away with time. Other types of depression symptoms can be controlled with lifestyle changes and/or medical support.

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Don't wait for depression to just go away

Depression and treatment

The ultimate goal in treating depression is to alleviate its symptoms and get a lasting positive outcome. This does not mean that someone who has recovered from depression symptoms will never feel sad again; sadness is a normal part of a person's emotional life. It does, however, mean that many of the more severe symptoms caused by clinical depression do not have to be an ongoing part of your life.

While medication is a popular option for those experiencing depression, it is a form of treatment designed to manage symptoms, not a cure. Participating in talk therapy – with or without medication – is commonly used to help patients learn coping skills for handling their depression symptoms. Therapy works on a more personal level, confronting the issues head-on, which often offers a better chance of long-term improvement.

Combining multiple forms of treatment is often the preferred treatment plan to help someone recover from depression. This could include a combination of counseling, medication, and practicing self-care.

Does depression ever go away without treatment?

Depression is a complex illness with a variety of possible causes. In some instances, it results from an underlying physical medical condition, which, when addressed, causes the depression to fade away. Other times, depression is caused by a traumatic situation or change, and symptoms can improve as the situation improves.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

If you are experiencing reactive depression – which results from a specific situation – and the situation improves, your depression may gradually vanish over time. For example, if you have high levels of anxiety and feelings of depression because you had a difficult end to a relationship, the feelings often start to dissipate within time. Eventually, you may come out of a depressive state simply through a change in environment. Other types of depression – such as seasonal affective disorder or post-partum depression – can resolve after biological factors such as sunlight exposure or hormone levels come back into balance.

However, most instances of depression are unlikely to go away without professional treatment, even if they fall into the above categories. Depression can cause people to withdraw from the very things that are likely to make them feel better. This includes things like taking care of their physical health, maintaining relationships with friends and families, and taking their minds off themselves. When someone feels depressed, they will not typically choose to do these things. 

In most situations, it is unusual for depression to disappear without making any effort or changes at all. While the willpower of someone with depression is likely to be much lower than usual, the road to lasting relief are typically those that demand work to follow them. In this regard, the support of family, friends, and a therapist can be invaluable in taking the necessary steps.

Living without depression

The strategies below may help you overcome depression, but they are best when combined with professional help. A professional counselor understands how to lead you through the steps you need to start to make progress. There's also something helpful about talking to someone who isn't personally connected with you.

Overcoming depression is rarely something that happens suddenly, but is rather a process of gradually feeling the symptoms less and less intensely until they are no longer a burden. Unfortunately, individuals who've had depression in the past tend to be at more risk for future relapses, whether through their biology, temperament, or circumstances.

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The battle against depression is not something that a single victory can usually conquer. Those prone to depression need to actively pay attention to their state of mind even when they feel better, to avoid falling back into a depressed state. Developing habits like self-care, journaling, meditation, and connecting with those who support you can help you catch relapses before they become a deep depression.

Remedies that you can try on your own

If you are struggling with depression and don't want to talk to a therapist, there are some things that you can try on your own. However, if you don't find relief, it's typically in your best interest to seek professional help.

  • Journaling - Sometimes getting your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto paper can help you process painful situations that you have experienced. This can help you work through your feelings and recover from your depression.
  • Get enough sleep - Every situation in life is just harder if you are operating on a night of insufficient sleep. Your body needs rest, so try to get around eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Make good food choices - When experiencing feelings of depression, it's easy to have changes in your appetite. Typically, people with depression experience a loss of appetite. However, it could also lead to overeating. Make sure you work to keep your eating in check if you are struggling and focus on having small amounts of food throughout the day. Try to include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet. Studies have found that those who mostly eat fast food and junk food tend to have higher risks of depression than those who eat fresh, healthy foods. 
  • Try  meditation - Mindfulness meditation can help you reconnect with yourself and learn to cope with your feelings. It's a way to recognize what you are feeling without allowing it to control you or make you feel anxious. Meditation can also teach you how to focus on your breathing, which helps you shift your mind from what's causing your anxiety to breathing deeper and stretching exercises.
  • Connect with others - The normal response to depression is to withdraw from family and friends. However, these are the people with whom you need to try to spend time when dealing with depression. Spending time with people who can help you feel "normal" again can often help significantly. Even a few minutes with friends or family can be beneficial.
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Don't wait for depression to just go away

Therapy for depression

There are times when simple changes that you make on your own, like those above, can help you manage your depression. However, if that's not working for you, then it's time to get help. Psychotherapy has been shown to help improve mood, thoughts, and physical functioning for patients with depression. Therapy has also been shown to help patients better deal with stressors. 

Working with a therapist, including online therapists like those at BetterHelp, can help you find the relief you're seeking. Studies find that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy, plus it offers the convenience of not having to leave your home. A therapist can help you to identify where your depression originated, triggers that you face, and effective coping strategies. You can read the reviews of our therapists below from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor reviews

"I was kind of skeptical going into trying this platform, not sure if it would really help me or not, and also nervous about it. Kat is a really great therapist! She is very patient and understanding. She always checked in with me and how I'm doing and there to have sessions when I really needed it if something came up. She really takes her time to process what I'm going through and gives me great feedback and advice to work through things. She does an amazing job and doesn't make you feel uncomfortable talking about things that would be hard for you to discuss normally. You don't feel like you're being judged in any certain way, as some people might make you feel. Kat is always prompt to respond and schedule sessions. I really would recommend her as a therapist to anyone!"

"Karen is an amazing resource, and I'm so thankful I have her in my corner. Having been in traditional therapy previously, I have to say having someone that you can message 24/7 and talk to via phone makes it so much easier to be consistent in my therapy. She has given me great tools and insight to manage my depression."

Takeaway

Depression is treatable with traditional forms of medicine and strategies that you can implement on your own. However, you don't have to face this battle by yourself. BetterHelp offers the effective tools you need to move forward. Take the first step today.
Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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