Recovering from depression isn't easy. One of the hardest things is that you just don't know what to expect.
It's not like healing from an injury. If you broke your arm, your doctor could give you specifics about your recovery. He or she could tell you -- at least roughly -- how many weeks you would need a cast and when you will be healed.
Antidepressants, especially when combined with talk therapy, generally help people recover from depression. Symptoms begin to improve within weeks for the majority of people taking antidepressants. And people who take antidepressants long-term -- up to 36 months -- have a relapse rate of only 18% compared to 40% for those who do not.
But if they work so well, why do so many people stop taking antidepressants within a few weeks of starting them? Or skip doses when they start to feel better?
Unfortunately, depression isn't like that. Each person's recovery is different. Some recover in a few weeks or months. But for others, depression is a long-term illness. In about 20% to 30% of people who have an episode of depression, the symptoms don't entirely go away.
You may also have trouble figuring out how you feel. If you were depressed for a long time before you got treatment, you may not remember what feeling normal is like.
You need to know that you're not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 19 million Americans are living with depression right now. And treatment works. The National Mental Health Association says that more than 80% of people who get treatment say it helps. If you stick with it, the odds are very good that you will feel better.
Be Aware of the Risk of Relapse
While some people become depressed only once in their lives, others face depression multiple times. According to the American Psychiatric Association, at least 50% of people who have an episode of major depression will go on to have a second. And about 80% of people who have two episodes will have a third.
These may seem like scary statistics. Right now, you may not feel like you can go through depression again.
But depression doesn't have to overshadow the rest of your life. You just have to be aware. Now that you're recovering from depression, you have valuable information. You know the signs of depression. You know the times in your life when you might be more vulnerable. Next time, you can get help sooner and get better faster.
Demand to Feel Well Again
If you went through a severe depression, you may be relieved to just feel OK again. You might not be happy, but you're grateful that you can get out of bed and go to work.
But that isn't enough. It isn't enough to just feel less miserable. You deserve to feel well again, to feel as good as you once did. If your current treatment isn't allowing that, then you need make certain everything is being done to improve symptoms as fully as possible. There are many different ways of treating depression -- therapy, medicines, and lifestyle changes -- that can help.
So don't settle for feeling just OK. You and your health care provider need to work together. With some effort and good treatment, you can feel truly well again.