There are two possible responses to the question “Will my depression fade away if left alone?” They are “Maybe,” plus “There are no guarantees about that.”
The uncertainty is explained, somewhat, at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine website, “Clinical depression is a medical illness which affects millions of people each year. Though people often get the “blues,” clinical depression causes persistent changes in some persons’ mood, behavior, and feelings. The illness interferes with and disrupts a person’s education, job and family life. No amount of ‘cheering up’ can make it go away, and neither can ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ nor ‘toughing it out.’ No amount of exercise, vitamins, or vacation can make clinical depression disappear. People with clinical depression need to get proper treatment which usually includes medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.”
However, that message above only addresses clinical depression and with a foregone conclusion. Ample documented evidence shows that clinical and non-clinical depression can spontaneously end with helpful input, events and other unpredictable anomalies that don’t include psychotherapy or medication. Anecdotes about such phenomena abound, but they are unpredictable. They can’t be summoned up on command, nor do they make predictable appearances in human lives. That’s part of the reason that people pray for miracles. As you’ll learn below, though, statistical evidence exists to prove that a spontaneous end to depression can indeed happen. If anyone important to you scoffs at “mere anecdotal evidence,” you can counter their stance with “Here’s what researchers call multiple, proven accurate anecdotes: Statistics.”
Let’s break down some vocabulary terms to make this more understandable. Acute depression can be brought on by hormonal shifts, unemployment, romantic breakups, and relocation among other high-impact events. Think of “army brats” or anyone whose sense of security is marred by moves to locations without familiar friends and surroundings.
The Mayo Clinic presents a succinct definition of Clinical depression with a chart:
“Signs and symptoms of clinical depression may include:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Symptoms are usually severe enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships with others or in day-to-day activities, such as work, school or social activities.
Clinical depression can affect people of any age, including children. However, clinical depression symptoms, even if severe, usually improve with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two.”
Non-clinical depression is a normal reaction to painful life events and/or physical, mental and emotional stress. It can be caused by medical conditions and some medications, which is why it is important for anyone with depressed moods to get a complete medical workup. It can reveal if medical conditions are or are not causing mental problems, facilitating the treatment of identified medical problems to end them and their consequent depression. Non-clinical and non-medically induced depression can end with time, reflection, input from compassionate friends, relatives and other acquaintances. If necessary, helpful pharmaceutical interventions can help, too.
In any event, it’s not a certainty that a depression will lift, or disappear, on its own. Called “Spontaneous remission,” such an incident requires substantial improvement in neurobiological chemistry (too complicated to be addressed in this brief article), the depressed person’s level of focus/effort for redirecting their energies toward thoughts plus activities – including supportive nutrition – which curtail depression, and the availability of compassionate friends, colleagues and relatives. Ultimately, depressed persons need to respond to stressors aka triggers with resilience. They must develop an enduring, strong resolve to consider troubling issues as conquerable problems, not as character-destroying and insurmountable disasters.
PUBMED, a respected resource of information for the medical and mental health industries, indicates a more optimistic look at the likelihood of spontaneous remission in untreated depression. An Estimating remission from untreated major depression article at the site indicates that “…Based on adult samples recruited from primary-care settings, the model estimated that 23% of prevalent cases of untreated depression will remit within 3 months, 32% within 6 months and 53% within 12 months.”
When your level of unhappiness is strong enough to disrupt your life with sleeplessness, listlessness, loss of appetite and/or the loss of goals, you can ease the problem with talk therapy. It can happen with certified mental health professionals or with people who somehow have the knack to help you to feel better about life overall. Think of the motivational posters, coaches and memes in the world. They exist because they’re effective.
Yocheved Golani is a popular writer whose byline has appeared worldwide in print and online. A certified Health Information Management professional, she is a member of Get Help Israel. Certified in Spiritual Chaplaincy (End of Life issues) and in counseling skills, her life coaching for ill people puts healthy perspective into a clients’ success plan for achieving desired goals.