how long do depressive episodes last

How Long Do Depressive Episodes Last?

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Answering “How long do depressive episodes last?” is challenging, especially as every sufferer is different.

As one of the most prevalent mood disorders, depression can be a complicated mental disorder to live with.

Also known as major depressive disorder, it is a recurrent challenge with phases known as “depressive episodes.”

What Are Depressive Episodes?

As their name suggests, depressive episodes are phases throughout your life where you’ll experience significant bouts of depression.

It’s important to note that with major depressive disorder, the symptoms are far beyond feeling down in the dumps.

It’s a severe mental illness that can come with thoughts of suicide, isolation, and the inability to care for oneself.

The episodes you experience can flare up and down, just like other ailments such as arthritis.

Individuals in an episode are likely to experience depressive symptoms at an increased scale for an extended period.

With that said, the total length of a depressive episode can vary considerably.

When an episode subsides, an individual may begin to feel fewer symptoms, or their symptoms may go away entirely.

However, this does not mean that the depression has magically cured itself.

The signs will likely return at a future date, causing another depressive episode.

Are There Risk Factors for Depressive Episodes?

Aside from having a major depressive disorder, plenty of other factors can increase the likelihood of depressive episodes.

These markers can also considerably influence how long depressive episodes may last.

Researchers Stephanie L. Burcusa and William G. Iacono established a list of risk factors that could increase the likelihood of recurrent depressive episodes.

The risk factors they identified include:

  • Stressful life events
  • Comorbidity (individuals with other psychological disorders)
  • Family history of depression
  • Different cognitive patterns
  • Limited social support
  • Living with past trauma
  • Personality

Depression isn’t a one-size-fits-all mental disorder, as it affects all of its patients in different ways.

Also, the risk factors associated with the disorder may vary, depending on each individual’s circumstances.

Treatment for recurrent episodes will be different from patient to patient.

What Causes a Depressive Episode?

There are plenty of risk factors that can increase the chances of having a depressive episode.

Several causes can trigger an episode throughout your lifetime. A few examples of the most common causes of depression include:

Hormonal Changes

Pregnancy, giving birth, and menstrual cycles can all be causes of depression.

In most instances, when the hormonal imbalance is addressed, the depressive symptoms will begin to go away.

Drug Use

There are plenty of different drugs that can increase your chances of dealing with depression.

Considering drugs can affect your oxytocin and serotonin production, extended drug use can do considerable harm.


In many instances, individuals don’t have to live a risky life to deal with depression.

Biological causes can also lead to suffering from this disorder, such as a family history.


The environment you live in can considerably influence your development of depression.

Social isolation, periods of prolonged stress, and traumatic events are all major causes.

What Are the Symptoms of a Depressive Episode?

It can be relatively easy for most people suffering from depression to tell when a depressive episode is on the horizon.

For others, it can come about randomly, making it more challenging to live with.

This mental disorder affects each patient differently, and its list of symptoms is considerably long.

The simplest way to group the symptoms of a major depressive disorder is to consider them as a patient experiencing extreme low mood for extended periods.

With that said, there are plenty of specific symptoms you may experience as well, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Loss of interest in common activities
  • Loss of interest in socializing
  • Difficulty remembering and concentrating
  • Considerable changes in sleep patterns
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Changes in weight and appetite
  • Thoughts of suicide and death
  • Attempting suicide
  • Pains that cannot be explained physically

In many instances, the first expressed symptom for people with a major depressive disorder is mental symptoms like feelings of worthlessness and helplessness.

Other sufferers may experience a loss of interest in activities and socialization, isolating themselves from others.

How Long Do Depressive Episodes Last?

There’s no specific way to tell how long a depressive episode can last, especially as it’s different from person to person.

Additionally, your episodes could be longer if you have a trigger that sets your brain chemistry off and you’re continually around said trigger.

With that said, there is a timeframe to consider if you’re being diagnosed with a major depressive disorder on a clinical basis.

Individuals in a depressive episode must be experiencing symptoms for a minimum of two weeks.

This is an important risk factor that psychologists and psychiatrists consider when diagnosing and treating a patient.

Additionally, your symptoms can last for months after the two-week threshold.

learn how long do depressive episodes last

How Long Do Different Types of Depression Last?

Did you know there is more than one type of depression you could be experiencing?

This mental disorder comes in different packages, from major depressive disorder to seasonal affective disorder.

Let’s take a look at the most common types of depression and their standard duration.

Major Depressive Disorder (2+ Weeks)

Also referred to as clinical depression, major depressive disorder is the most common type of depression.

Symptoms of this disorder include a loss of interest in activities, low mood, feelings of low self-worth, and more.

Individuals can experience major depressive order once or multiple times throughout their lifetime.

In most instances, a major depressive disorder will last from six to 18 months or longer.

You must begin treatment as soon as you start experiencing symptoms. With psychotherapy, you can help to prevent future episodes.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (2+ Years)

You must meet specific criteria to be diagnosed with a persistent depressive disorder.

First, individuals must be experiencing depressive symptoms for a minimum of two years.

Persistent depressive disorder is also known as dysthymia and is a chronic depressive disorder.

In most patients, you’ll find the symptoms of depression are less severe but can last considerably longer than with clinical depression.

Many of the symptoms are similar, such as feeling unmotivated, having feelings of low self-worth, etc.

Persistent depressive disorder can occur due to chronic stress and major life trauma.

Compared to other types of depression, what makes a persistent depressive disorder unique is its consistency.

Patients often experience these symptoms for so long that they become a part of their everyday life.

In many cases, individuals live with the symptoms rather than seeking treatment.

Postpartum Depression (9+ Months)

Postpartum depression is a challenging mental disorder that new parents need to consider.

When dealing with this type of depression, individuals will experience fatigue, anxiety, and sadness.

They’ll find their symptoms make it challenging to care for themselves and others.

In most instances, postpartum depression occurs right after the birth of a child. However, many parents experience symptoms up to a year after birth.

Depending on the severity of the disorder, its length can vary considerably.

Some patients have experienced symptoms for a few weeks or longer.

The largest risk of postpartum depression is that it can also transition into a major depressive disorder.

You must seek professional help if you’re experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (4 to 5 Months)

Another prevalent type of depression is seasonal affective disorder.

This instance occurs when individual experiences depressive symptoms with seasonal changes.

What makes the condition different from others is the symptoms can come and go depending on the season.

For example, you may experience heightened depression during the winter. However, when summer approaches, your depressive symptoms will subside.

As a result, the seasonal affective disorder can also be incredibly challenging for patients to live with.

It’s essential to consider the average length of a season. Many individuals will experience depressive symptoms for up to five months.

As soon as their body undergoes seasonal changes, the depressive episode will end.

Bipolar Disorder (2 Weeks to 2+ Years)

Bipolar disorder is a well-known mood disorder that can cause considerable depressive episodes.

With bipolar disorder, individuals have periods of mania and depression.

Like many other types of depression, the length of a low episode with bipolar disorder can vary considerably based on the individual.

Depressive symptoms could last for a few weeks or up to 12 months.

They are also often replaced with a period of mania, resulting in considerably dangerous circumstances.

One of the most challenging aspects of bipolar disorder is that it won’t go away independently.

It’s essential that the individuals seek treatment, although this can be challenging.

Patients with bipolar disorder often seek medical advice when in a depressive episode.

However, when a manic episode begins, they may stop taking their medication and attending psychotherapy sessions.

There are many ways to assist with bipolar disorder, although medication combined with inpatient therapy has been proven to be the best option.

The most important treatment step is to ensure bipolar patients stick to their treatment plans.

Does Depression Go Away On Its Own?

Understanding whether depression goes away on its own can be challenging.

Undoubtedly, depressive symptoms can ebb and flow, becoming less and worse over time.

However, this doesn’t mean that the root causes of your depression have gone away entirely.

When dealing with a severe case of major depressive disorder, it is highly recommended you seek mental health advice.

With the assistance of a practitioner, you can work through different types of therapy and medication.

Antidepressants are one of the most common tools helped to treat varying types of depression at different severities.

It’s important to remember that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain.

When paired with a healthier lifestyle, antidepressants can help manage the chemical imbalance.

For many patients, it’s one of the only treatment options to help avoid consistent depressive episodes.

With that said, this doesn’t mean the medication is the only treatment for depressive disorders.

For example, psychoanalysts can treat a seasonal affective disorder and postpartum depression with the help of standard inpatient therapy.

Using psychotherapy techniques can often be preferred, especially if you’ve had unpleasant experiences with antidepressants.

Using NLP to Fight Depression

Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming into your therapy routine can be a helpful way to combat symptoms of depression.

As an emerging theory in psychoanalysis, NLP can assist with eliminating learned helplessness.

You may also find it can assist with working through traumatic events, helping alleviate some of the burdens you’re carrying.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming has been found to feel liberating when used during a depressive episode.

It assists in enhancing the belief that each individual is in control of their life.

It can also provide patients with the fundamental skills to work through grief, trauma, and post-traumatic stress.

To learn more about NLP and how it can assist with depression, we highly recommend these books:

Different Type of Depression, Different Episode Length

If you’re asking, “How long do depressive episodes last?” there isn’t a solid answer to consider.

Some patients experience symptoms for months, while others have symptoms disappear within two weeks.

If you think you’re suffering from any type of depression, seeking mental health counseling is your best chance to improve your life quality.

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