How Long Does it Take to Treat Depression?
Depressive disorder, often referred to as major depression, or simply depression, is much more than feeling sad or down.
Life ebbs and flows, and it’s perfectly normal to respond poorly to stressful events, even if that means feeling sorry for yourself.
Depression is a mental health condition characterized by extended spells of extreme sadness and hopelessness. Left untreated, depression ripples outward, impacting loved ones, friends, and acquaintances, with the problem becoming worse.
Fortunately, treating depression is well-researched, with most people responding well to treatment and making a full recovery. Once diagnosed, a treatment plan consisting of medication and/or psychotherapy combined with healthy lifestyle choices is formulated and, if you follow through with it, you should experience positive results.
While some people only experience a single episode of major depression over the course of their lifetime, it’s a recurring nightmare for most. If untreated, episodes of depression can linger for months, even years.
While debilitating, depression is not uncommon. Based on 2019 data, over 19 million adult Americans – that’s 8% of the US population – had one or more major depressive episodes during the previous year.
Before we outline how depression is treated and how long treatment lasts, we’ll touch on the common markers of depression.
What Are The Main Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression vary from person to person. Symptoms are typically inflamed if there is a co-occurring substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder.
When the following signs and symptoms of depression persist for two weeks or more and start to impact daily living, you should speak with your healthcare provider and request an assessment.
- Appetite changes
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Problems with focus
- Outbursts of anger or frustration
- Drop in personal hygiene and grooming
- Conspicuously lowered energy levels
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Becoming socially withdrawn
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Slowed movements
- Physical aches and pains
- Suicidal thoughts
- Reckless behaviors
What Causes Depression?
There is no single cause for depression.
Sometimes, life crises or a physical illness can trigger depressive episodes. Other people experience depression out of the blue and with no apparent external cause.
Research points to several factors that influence your predisposition to depression:
- Genetics: If you have a family history of depression, you’re more likely to suffer from depression yourself. Does a family member have mood disorders? If so, be on guard yourself.
- Trauma: If you undergo a traumatic event at a young age, this can cause long-term alterations to your brain’s response to stress and fear. These changes can often lead to depression.
- Substance abuse: Abusing drugs or alcohol can cause depression. Based on 2018 data, 21% of American adults with substance use disorder also suffered from a major depressive episode that same year. Substance abuse will worsen symptoms of depression, so a dual diagnosis treatment program is advisable. Here, both issues will be tackled head-on and simultaneously.
- Life events: From relationship break-ups to financial problems, many external events can understandably trigger depressive episodes.
How is Depression Diagnosed?
A medical professional can diagnose depression if you have experienced a depressive episode that’s lasted for more than a fortnight.
The symptoms of a depressive episode include but are not limited to the following:
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Finding no pleasure in regular activities
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Sleep disturbances
- Extreme fatigue
- Problems with focus
- Impaired decision-making
- Feelings of guilt
- Low self-worth
- Suicidal thoughts and intentions
Your healthcare provider can refer you to mental healthcare services and other resources as appropriate.
Clinical Depression Treatment
Although depressive disorder is often devastating illness, it also often responds well to treatment.
Underpinning any successful treatment plan is a precise diagnosis, including accounting for any co-occurring substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder.
The most common plan of attack for dealing with major depressive disorder includes a combination of the following modalities:
- Improving your lifestyle
Antidepressants are commonly used to effectively treat depression.
There are several different types of antidepressants, from SSRIs to MAOIs. While they work on different brain neurotransmitters, they perform the same broad function. You may need to try several different antidepressants before finding one that works.
They take anywhere from one to two months to take full effect. You need to pack plenty of patience when pursuing treatment with antidepressants. During the first few weeks of treatment, you should remain in close contact with your doctor.
If you try two or more antidepressants without success, this is termed treatment-resistant depression. A nasal spray, Esketamine, is a new FDA-approved medication that sometimes alleviates symptoms where other medications have failed.
Alternatively, other medications can be used in combination with antidepressants, anticonvulsants or antipsychotics, for instance.
Antidepressants come with a range of side effects. These typically lessen in intensity over time.
Stopping a course of antidepressants abruptly is not recommended and can trigger severe withdrawal symptoms. Liaise with your doctor and taper off your medication gradually.
Psychotherapy is informally known as talk therapy, and sometimes broadly labeled counseling.
With CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), for example, you’ll learn how to challenge and combat unhelpful and flawed thinking that leads to negative behaviors. You’ll learn healthier coping strategies and you’ll learn to avoid using substances to self-medicate.
IPT (interpersonal therapy) focuses sharply on the life events and interpersonal relationships that impact your mood. You’ll improve your communication skills, establish stronger social support networks, and formulate realistic expectations and goals.
As long as you’re prepared to put the work in, psychotherapy can yield impressive dividends for treating depression.
Improving your lifestyle
A combination of medication and psychotherapy should see the symptoms of your depression lessening over the course of a month or two.
While undergoing this treatment, it’s a smart time to make some changes to your lifestyle if appropriate. Often, the changes you can’t summon the motivation to make are the most valuable changes.
Consider the following:
- Exercise for at least thirty minutes a day. You don’t need to run a marathon or go crazy at the gym. Raising your heart rate is sufficient
- Adhere to a regular sleep schedule
- Eat healthy whole foods and limit your intake of processed foods
- Connect with people socially, even if only online
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and drugs
If you or a loved one needs treatment for depression, we can help here at The District Recovery Community.
Depression Treatment and Dual Diagnosis Treatment at The District Recovery Community
Regardless of the nature and the extent of your mental health condition, we have personalized treatment programs to suit here at TDRC.
If you are experiencing substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder co-occurring with depression, we can individualize a dual diagnosis treatment program. By attacking both issues simultaneously, you’ll improve your chances of sustained recovery while limiting the possibility of relapse.
To get things started today, call the friendly District team at 844.287.8506.