Seeing light at the end of the tunnel when you have depression can be challenging. Even if you feel nothing helps your symptoms, healing is possible.
Depression isn’t endless, but it can feel that way sometimes. And though some depression cases can be managed rather quickly, many people find that their symptoms linger for months or longer.
When you live with symptoms like fatigue, lack of motivation, and body aches, it’s natural to wonder, “Why won’t my depression go away? Will symptoms ever get better?”
They can get better. It might take some effort, though.
Even with treatment, depression symptoms can take a while to improve.
Medications often take several weeks to take effect and, in some cases, can make you feel worse before you feel better. Other treatment options like psychotherapy may also take some time to work.
Waiting to feel better can be a challenge, and feeling frustrated or concerned is valid. But healing can happen, and there are many proven ways to make symptoms of depression improve.
Every person’s experience with depression is different. How long symptoms persist depends on many factors, including:
In some cases, when the condition is diagnosed and treated promptly, the symptoms of depression may improve after weeks or months.
In other instances, when depression goes untreated, you could experience side effects for a long time.
Depression can also be recurrent, which means symptoms can come back sometimes, particularly if treatment has been interrupted.
Not receiving treatment
Untreated depression can make your symptoms intensify with time and last longer.
Not receiving proper treatment and support for your symptoms can also lead to physical and psychological effects in the long run.
Untreated depression can sometimes cause:
- chronic inflammation
- digestive challenges
- chronic fatigue
These symptoms may, in turn, affect your mood, even more, making you feel like there’s nothing that makes depression get better.
Living with other mental health conditions may also make your depression symptoms take longer to improve.
Depending on your situation and causes of depression, you could develop other conditions before or at the same time as depression. For example:
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- personality disorders
- substance use disorder
- eating disorders
Living with overlapping symptoms, particularly unaddressed, can affect how depression improves over time.
Discussing other potential symptoms with a mental health professional can help you get the support you need for each condition.
Your antidepressants stopped working
In some cases, medication for depression can stop working or decrease in effectiveness.
Stopping your prescription drug without a health professional’s supervision can lead to severe health complications. A doctor may be able to adjust your dose, change brands, or switch to another type of medication.
Not taking care of yourself
When you live with depression, even the simplest tasks can feel overwhelming. Neglecting some personal needs, such as nutrition and hygiene, is common when you have the condition.
But even if it feels challenging, taking care of some of your needs and spending time on yourself can improve your healing journey.
Consider your self-care if you feel depression symptoms aren’t improving with traditional treatment. Try to focus on these:
Depression isn’t curable, but it can be managed, and treatment is effective in most cases.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, between 80% and 90% of people with depression will eventually respond well to treatment.
In some rare cases, though, depression doesn’t improve with traditional treatment options like psychotherapy and medications. When this happens, it’s natural that you feel nothing helps your depression.
This is sometimes referred to as treatment-resistant depression (TRD).
TRD isn’t an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). This means there aren’t clear criteria for the condition to be diagnosed or addressed.
For example, a person treated with both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) who doesn’t show any improvements, would be considered as having treatment-resistant depression.
There are many possible reasons why depression doesn’t respond well to treatment. A mental health professional can explore alternative options to treat your symptoms.
Even if it’s challenging, try to keep in mind that if a treatment or approach doesn’t help depression, it doesn’t mean that everything else will have the same effect. You might need to wait longer, but trying other support methods may eventually help improve your depression symptoms.
In almost all cases of depression, treatment leads to some relief of your symptoms.
If you’re considering self-harm or suicide, you’re not alone
You can access free support right away with these resources:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call the Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for English or 888-628-9454 for Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- The Crisis Text Line. Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
- Veterans Crisis Line. Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
- Deaf Crisis Line. Call 321-800-3323, text “HAND” to 839863, or visit their website.
- Befrienders Worldwide. This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.
Living with depression can be challenging, and it can be upsetting to find that your symptoms don’t improve with time.
Your brain and experiences are unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treating depression. In some cases, some trial and error are natural.
Since negative thought patterns and hopelessness can sometimes be a symptom of depression, you might feel like there’s no point in trying. But treatment can be effective, even if it takes a bit longer than you expected. Finding a compassionate mental health professional can help.
In addition to medication and talk therapy, there are several self-help techniques for depression, which you can also try at your own pace.
You could also look into an online support group for depression or request help from a trusted friend or family member.
You’re doing the best you can with the resources at hand. Depression isn’t a personal choice, and the challenges you’re experiencing aren’t on you. Healing is possible.