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How Long Does Recovery From Depression Take?


One of the questions my patients are most eager to ask me when they start their depression treatment is, “How long does it take to recover from depression?” My answer to them is always, “It depends on the patient.” Every patient is different and therefore recovery time depends on a few factors, including:

  • The severity of the diagnosis
  • When treatment is started
  • How the patient responds to treatment
  • The type of treatment used

Patients can feel frustrated if they are progressing slowly, but that does not mean that they won’t reach remission. Let’s take a look at the factors that can affect recovery time. 

Depression Treatment is Most Effective When Started Early

Research shows that an early diagnosis as well as implementing treatment early-on helps increase the chance that a patient will achieve remission and decreases the risk of relapse. (1)

When patients delay seeking help for depression, their symptoms can worsen and treatment may not be as effective as it would be if it were started early.  

Treatment Type May Affect Recovery Time

Finding the right depression treatment is a trial-and-error process that takes time. Treatment looks different for everyone. Sometimes, we get it right the first time, but oftentimes it takes a few tries to find the right combination of treatments that provide the maximum benefits to the patient. Once you find the right treatment the time it takes to see an improvement in symptoms varies among patients.  

Antidepressants: There are many different types of antidepressants available to patients. Sometimes, patients won’t feel better with their first antidepressants, and they’ll need to try another. Once a patient starts taking an antidepressant that is effective, they may start to see changes in 2 weeks, while other patients may not see a change in their symptoms for four to six weeks. Some patients may need to take antidepressants for over a year before achieving remission. To learn more about how long it takes to see results with antidepressants, click here

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: TMS is a medication free depression treatment that is administered over the course of nine weeks (six week treatment period with a three week taper period). Although patients will start to see results at different times, some patients will see results at two weeks while some will see results at four or five weeks, TMS is still effective at helping patients achieve remission by the end of the treatment course. To learn more about how long it takes to see results with TMS, click here.

How to Notice When Depression Symptoms Are Improving

If you’re currently seeking treatment for depression, work with your doctor to track the severity of your symptoms. You can do this by keeping a journal of how you feel each day, and sharing this information with your doctor each time you meet. This way, you and your doctor will be able to identify trends in your symptoms. Some indications that your depression symptoms are improving can include if you:

  • Have more energy
  • Are less irritable
  • Are sleeping better
  • Feel less overwhelmed
  • Feel like being more social

If you think you are experiencing signs of depression, seek help. The sooner depression is diagnosed and treatment is started, the more likely patients are to achieve remission and remain symptom-free.


Resources:

1. Halfin A. Depression: the benefits of early and appropriate treatment. Am J Manag Care. 2007 Nov;13(4 Suppl):S92-7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18041868/. Accessed January 20, 2021.

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.


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