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How Long Will My Depression Last?

I've been feeling really down lately. I'm pretty sure that I have depression (it runs in my family). How long can I expect my depression to last without treatment? If I do treat it, how quickly will antidepressants start to work?

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Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. Depression affects everyone differently. How long you have it will also depend on the type of depression you have, how severe the condition is, and how you are being treated.
Without treatment, some people may have depression for months, or even years. Major depression (sometimes called clinical depression) lasts for at least two weeks, and will often continue for four to nine months if not treated. Dysthymia is a chronic state of depression that lasts for at least two years. Many people with dysthymia feel depressed for much longer if not treated.
The good news is that treatments are available to help you recover sooner. Most people are treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Antidepressants are normally used for moderate and severe depression, with or without psychotherapy. They may also be used for mild depression that isn't getting better.
You should begin to feel better within a couple of weeks of starting an antidepressant medication. It can take up to 12 weeks, however, for the full therapeutic effects to be felt.
You will need to continue the antidepressant long enough for your depression to completely go away (this is called remission) to reduce the chance that your depression will come back. Normally, people will stay on an antidepressant for at least six months after reaching remission.
If you have repeated episodes of depression, or had a severe depression, your healthcare provider may recommend that you stay on your antidepressant longer, possibly for life.
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