Length of Depression: What You Need To Know


In Part 1 of my blog post on depression, I examined common questions I often get regarding the duration of a depressive episode.  


In Part 2 of my blog post on depression, I examined the underlying causes of depression and the various types of depression.  

Today, in my final blog post of the series about the length of depression, I’ll be examining how depression is categorized in terms of severity.

I’ll then turn towards treatment and self-care that is available to decrease your length of depression.  

The length of depression may be impact by the severity of your depression

When it comes to the intensity, depression is not depression is not depression.

In other words, not all types of depression have the same intensity level.

Therefore, when it comes to the intensity of depression, experts have created categories based on the number of symptoms and the symptoms effects on your ability to function.

How can you tell what category of depression you fall into?


Luckily, your doctor can give you a depression scale to fill out so you can figure out where your symptoms fall.


Two examples of depression scales include: 

PHQ-9:  Patient Healthcare Questionnaire for Depression


Beck Depression Inventory


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5 provides the key criteria for depression and its intensity.  They are listed below: 

The first two key features of depression include:

  • A depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.

With depression, you will notice some changes in how your body operates, including:

  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Can’t fall asleep or sleep all day.  
  • Your body showing clear signs of restlessness or being slowed down- to the point that others notice it.  
  • Loss of energy

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Inability to focus or concentrate on tasks
  • Ruminating on death or suicidal ideation with or without a specific plan. 

If you have fewer than 5 of the 9 symptoms listed above, you don’t meet the criteria for depression.  


Five or more symptoms likely means you “fit” the criteria.  


I say “fit” because the criteria are made by humans… who are imperfect and don’t understand many things about how the brain works.  

Therefore, please take the criteria as a guide… not as the bible of depression!

You know yourself better than the DSM or a doctor about how depression has impacted your outlook on life and the activities of your life.  


With that caveat, below are the diagnostic criteria for the severity levels of depression.

1. Mild depression


A mild depression diagnosis means that you have ~5 of the symptoms of depression.  The symptoms are neither overly intrusive nor super intense.    

The symptoms don’t intrude much at all in your daily living.

In mild depression, the symptoms may well go away on their own.  

However, it isn’t always the case that mild depression will go away without some type of intervention (see my second blog post that explains PDD). 

2. Moderate depression

It goes without saying, but moderate depressive symptoms and impairments fall between the mildest and the most severe types of depression.  


How this manifests in you will look different than the person sitting next to you.  


There’s a good chance that if you fall into this category if your challenging thoughts are more intrusive.


You likely will have less of an ability to get things done both at work and at home. 


You’ll notice that depression impacts your ability to live like you normally had prior to the onset of the depression.  

3. Severe depression


If you struggle with severe depression, your symptoms interfere with daily life.


Those around you notice that you struggle to engage in activities of daily living (such as showering). 

You most likely have intrusive and disturbing thoughts that are pretty pervasive.

You most likely have intrusive and disturbing thoughts that are pretty pervasive.  

Will my course of treatment impact my length of depression?

While I wish I could give you an answer with 100% certainty, I can’t.

When you are in the throes of major depression, the only thing you want to know is when will you be better…


It’s just impossible to predict with precision the exact length of depression.  

With that stated, I’d like to state again that depression is treatable!


There is no cure for depression at this time- but it can be managed!  

The sooner you get help, the better it will be for you.


Your mental health is no joke!  


After all, you have to live with your brain 24/7.  There is no respite from your mind.  

Research indicates that the longer you go with untreated depression, the harder it can be to treat the depression.

Bottom line:  Don’t suffer needlessly if you don’t have to.  


Seek out professional medical help when you first notice the signs or symptoms.  


And remember- reach out for help; it’s available!

What can you expect when you seek treatment for your depression?

There are a variety of methods that can be used to treat your specific type and severity of depression including:  

  • Antidepressants:  You may find that antidepressant medication may just be the best $20 you spend each month.  If it lifts the cloud that surrounds you 24/7, it’s an inexpensive price to pay!!!  Of course, talk to your doctor about the pros/cons of taking antidepressants.
  • Therapy:  Oh how I love therapy!  I think it’s good for everyone (at some challenging points in life).   There are several evidence-based options out there.  And, as I said in a previous blog post, there are new evidence-based therapeutic modalities that emerge all the time!  

What can you do *RIGHT NOW* that will help decrease the length of depression?

The answer is deceptively simple.  So simple, that many people won’t attempt the suggestions below.  I encourage you to not be that person! 

Try them out, PLEASE!!!




Set realistic expectations.  These self-care tips will NOT change your life or lift 100% of your depression (in all likelihood).  


However- over time- they can absolutely help diminish your symptoms.   

  • Be kind to yourself.  Don’t know exactly how to do this?  There are some great (self-help) cognitive behavioral therapy books out there.  Buy one today.  You’ll experience some healing.  
  • Eat healthy, nutritious foods. Eating well may help improve your physical and mental health.
  • Get exercise and fresh air. Getting out of the house for a walk can reduce feelings of isolation and boost your endorphins (mood hormones.)
  • Talk to a family member or trusted friend. Reaching out and connecting with someone that has earned the right to hear your concerns can be helpful.  
  • Get some sleep… but not too much. Make sure you are getting adequate (7-8 hours) of sleep.  Sleep can make a whole world of difference!
  • Do the opposite thing your depression is telling you to do.  In the counseling world, we call this “opposite action.”  This is key!  Whatever you do, please please please watch the video below:

Keep in mind, different medications, self-care techniques, and therapeutic modalities will be helpful for you and some won’t be as helpful or not helpful at all for you. 

The key is to keep trying until you find something that does work.

I know it may not be easy when you feel so depressed, but having faith that things can change is key.  


Having faith that things can change will keep you going.  It keeps you trying to find relief.  Until one day, you do.  


Please remember, if you are thinking about self-harm or suicide, you’re not alone. Help is available right now:


Call a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

 Hopefully, if you are feeling anxious or depressed, you’re ready to give therapy a go!

Free free to contact me directly if you have questions or to schedule a brief call to see if I might be able to support you as you journey forward.


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