Is depression curable permanently?

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease your ability to function at work and at home.

What is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both.


Depression symptoms can vary in severity, but they’ve lasted at least two weeks. Here are symptoms of depression:

– Feeling sad, anxious, empty or hopeless
– Irritability
– Loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities
– Fatigue or lack of energy
– Sleep problems, either sleeping too much or too little
– Slow speech and body movements
– Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
– Changes in appetite, such as eating too much or too little
– Physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive issues, or chronic pain that doesn’t respond to treatment
– Suicidal thoughts or attempts


There is no single cause of depression. It likely results from a combination of genetic, biologic, environmental, and psychological factors. Some types of depression run in families. But depression can occur in people without family histories of the illness.

Biology: Differences in certain chemicals in the brain may contribute to symptoms of depression.

Hormones: Changes in hormones may play a role in triggering or prolonging depression in women, such as during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

Brain structure: There are subtle differences in the brains of people who have depression. The significance of these changes is still uncertain.

Risk factors:

– Having blood relatives with depression
– Being a woman
– Having traumatic experiences as a child
– Having a serious illness
– Going through major life changes
– Taking certain medications
– Abusing alcohol or drugs

When to see a doctor

If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor or mental health professional as soon as you can. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, a health care professional, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.


A doctor or mental health provider diagnoses depression by asking about your medical history, symptoms, and mood. They also do a physical exam and tests to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as thyroid disorders.

The provider may ask you to complete a questionnaire to evaluate your mood. The questionnaire generally asks about frequency and severity of symptoms related to depression. This information helps the provider determine if your symptoms reflect a temporary case of the blues or are part of a depressive disorder. It also allows the provider to gauge the severity of your depression.

Types of Depression

There are several types of depressive disorders. Some examples include:

– Major depressive disorder – Also called clinical depression, this involves severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life.

– Persistent depressive disorder – This is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. You may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms.

– Bipolar disorder – This is characterized by cycling mood changes – from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression).

– Seasonal affective disorder – This is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. It generally lifts during spring and summer.

– Psychotic depression – This occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).


The most common treatments for depression are:

– Medications
– Psychotherapy
– Brain stimulation therapies
– Light therapy
– Complementary health approaches

The combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication is often the most effective approach. It’s important to know that most treatments for depression may take a few weeks to start working.


Popular types of antidepressants for depression include:

– Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Examples include sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac) and others.

– Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Examples include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor XR).

– Atypical antidepressants. Examples include bupropion (Wellbutrin), mirtazapine (Remeron) and trazodone.

– Tricyclic antidepressants. Examples include amitriptyline and imipramine.

– Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Examples include isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), selegiline (Emsam) and tranylcypromine (Parnate).

Medications generally require 4 to 6 weeks to take full effect. Side effects vary depending on the drug, but may include weight gain, nausea, insomnia or drowsiness, dry mouth, and loss of libido.


Also called talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce depression symptoms, explore life experiences, thoughts, feelings and relationships to improve mood and behaviors. Types of psychotherapy include:

– Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – Focuses on examining and changing negative thinking patterns and behaviors that contribute to depression.

– Interpersonal therapy (IPT) – Focuses on improving personal relationships and communication to ease symptoms.

– Psychodynamic therapies – Aim to identify and resolve issues or conflicts rooted in your past that can affect current behaviors and moods.

– Problem-solving therapy – Focuses on developing coping skills, such as developing positive thinking patterns and improving decision making.

Brain stimulation therapies

These therapies stimulate the brain directly through magnets or electrical currents:

– Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – Passes small electrical currents through the brain while you are under general anesthesia, causing a brief seizure. Often effective for severe depression, but side effects include confusion, memory loss and headaches.

– Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – Uses a strong magnet placed on the scalp to stimulate nerve cells in the brain associated with mood regulation.

– Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). A device implanted under the skin sends electrical pulses to stimulate the vagus nerve. Used for treatment-resistant depression that has not improved with medication.

Light therapy

Also called phototherapy, light therapy exposes you to artificial sunlight or specific wavelengths of light under controlled conditions. It’s thought that light therapy affects brain chemicals linked to mood. It’s used as part of treatment for seasonal affective disorder.

Complementary health approaches

Meditation, yoga, massage therapy and acupuncture are sometimes used to ease depression symptoms. However, their effectiveness is uncertain.

Is Depression Curable?

While depression is highly treatable, there is no cure for clinical depression. Like diabetes or heart disease, depression is an ongoing condition that needs to be managed throughout your life.

However, just as people who have diabetes or heart disease can go for periods of time without symptoms if they are effectively managing their conditions, people with depression can reach a place where they can live depression-free for years at a time.

The key is finding an effective treatment plan that helps you manage your depression and achieve long-term remission of symptoms. Remission means your depression symptoms are reduced for a sustained period of time.

With the right treatment plan, many people with depression can achieve full remission. But avoiding relapse is also crucial.Treatment for depression focuses on:

– Achieving remission of symptoms
– Maintaining emotional stability
– Preventing relapse or recurrence

While treatment can’t cure depression, it can help you manage symptoms and eventually stop them from coming back.

How long until depression is cured?

There is no definitive timeline for curing depression. The length of treatment needed for depression remission varies widely based on:

– The severity of symptoms
– How long you’ve had symptoms
– Whether you have other medical conditions
– If you have support from family and friends
– If you experience trauma or high stress
– How consistently you follow your treatment plan
– If you need adjustments to your treatment plan

Many people start seeing improvement within a few weeks or months of beginning depression treatment. But it can sometimes take 6 months to a year to find the right medication or psychotherapy approach.

Be patient and keep up with treatment. Tell your doctor if your depression symptoms are not improving within a couple months so they can adjust your treatment plan to better support your needs.

With consistent treatment, many people can achieve full remission within 6 months to 2 years. Remission doesn’t mean depression is “cured.” It means your symptoms are well-managed and you’re emotionally stable.

It’s crucial to keep up with long-term treatment and lifestyle choices that support emotional health in order to sustain an ongoing state of remission.

Tips for Living Better with Depression

While clinical depression can’t be cured, you can effectively manage symptoms and live a full, balanced life by:

– Taking medications and attending therapy as directed. Don’t adjust medication or stop treatments without consulting your doctor.

– Making healthy lifestyle choices. Follow a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, Limit alcohol, don’t smoke.

– Practicing stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation.

– Scheduling pleasant activities and hobbies into your day.

– Spending time with supportive friends and family.

– Joining a support group to share experiences.

– Protecting against negative thinking. Challenge pessimism and negative self talk.

– Asking for help when you need it. Rely on loved ones for support.

– Seeing your mental health providers for follow up and tuning up treatments.

While depression can’t be cured, treatment and healthy lifestyle choices can help you manage it effectively. Work closely with your doctor and therapist and be patient. In most cases, depression can be well-managed and you can feel emotionally stable again.


Depression is a serious but common illness that negatively affects emotions, thoughts and behaviors. While depression can’t be cured, it can be treated and managed effectively in most people. The most common treatments are medications, psychotherapy and other therapies that directly stimulate the brain.

While there is no definitive timeline, people who stick with their treatment plans can often achieve full remission of depression symptoms within months or a few years. Even after remission, it’s crucial to keep up with treatment and make healthy lifestyle choices to prevent relapse. Ongoing treatment helps sustain emotional stability and well-managed depression symptoms so you can live a full, balanced life.

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