Since major depressive disorders have such a negative impact on one’s life, many out there wonder; “can clinical depression be cured?”
As of this time, there’s no cure for depression. Still, there are a number of treatment options that can help to improve symptoms and your quality of life.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at what a “cure” to depression looks like. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Do Depression Symptoms Always Come Back?
Since there’s no cure for depression, some may argue what’s the purpose of treatment. Simply put, treatment helps you to minimize symptoms and, therefore, provides you with a better chance at coping with day-to-day life.
But if symptoms go away, doesn’t that mean I’ve cured my depression?
Not necessarily. While you may feel less inhibited by depression symptoms, this doesn’t mean depression has 100% gone away. There remains a chance that you’ll continue to feel lingering low moods or experience depressive episodes.
These are known as “remissions” and mental health professionals look at them in a similar manner to “relapse” for those struggling with a substance abuse disorder. ¹
Unfortunately, remissions are common among those recovering from depression. According to a 2018 review, about one-third of people with depression will have more than one episode. This same study found that 75% of this population struggled with multiple episodes. ²
An older review found that at least half of people will experience remission, with 80% of that population having more than two episodes. ³
With this research, it’s safe to say most people won’t experience more than one episode of depression as long as they’re receiving the proper treatment. However, since a significant proportion of the population will continue to experience depression, we cannot state there’s a “cure.”
How is Depression Treated?
Currently, depression treatment is through either one (or a combination of) the following methods: ⁴
When initially diagnosed with depression, you’ll be recommended one of the following forms of therapy:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Identifies negative thought and behavior patterns and teaches you techniques to overcome these. ⁵
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) – If you struggle with personal relationships due to depression, IPT helps you to cope with difficult emotions, improve communication, and get involved in socialization. ⁶
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) – A combination of CBT and mindfulness strategies, such as meditation. ⁷
Naturally, not every form of therapy will be right for you. With that said, it may take a bit of trial and error before finding the most suitable treatment for your needs.
If you’re still struggling with depression even after therapy, a mental health professional may also recommend medication. The purpose of these is to help ease symptoms in order to improve results from therapy.
While there are a number of varying medications for depression, the most common include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Atypical antidepressants
- Mood stabilizers
If your child or adolescent struggles with depression, a psychiatrist may recommend a form of antidepressant.
It’s important to note that medication isn’t usually a long-term commitment. In most cases, a prescription will last for several weeks at a time. However, when you receive a prescription, it’s vital you don’t stop taking the medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
Other Forms of Depression Treatment
While most people will find resolution in the above treatment methods, some may continue to experience symptoms. In such cases, a mental health professional may recommend specific holistic measures. The most common of these include:
- Acupuncture – According to a 2019 review, acupuncture had significant benefits for those struggling with depression. Notably, when done alongside antidepressants. ⁸
- Exercise – Research has consistently found that even just 2 and a half hours of psychical activity a week can reduce symptoms of both anxiety and depression. This research also concludes that outdoor exercise is better than indoor exercise. ⁹
- Relaxation Techniques – If you also struggle with stress and anxiety, it can help to practice forms of holistic therapy that help to relax the brain and body, such as meditation, yoga, and guided imagery.
- St. John’s Wort – As one of the most powerful natural alternatives for depression, research concludes that St. John’s wort may help to relieve mild to moderate depressive symptoms. ¹⁰
- Other Supplements – Research has continually found that other daily supplements may be beneficial for depression, such as magnesium, rhodiola, saffron, and vitamin D.
Still, be aware that research on these other holistic measures remains preliminary. Therefore, their effectiveness remains in question.
Tips for Preventing Remission
The best way to “cure” depression is to prevent remission upon receiving treatment. If you feel you’re getting better with treatment, there are a few self-care strategies to consider in order to lower the risk of depression returning:
- Avoid Drugs and Alcohol – It’s common for people with depression to develop a substance abuse disorder. Ultimately, drugs and alcohol can not only inhibit depression treatment but also cause other problems that worsen depression. ¹¹
- Find Activities You Enjoy – Make sure you’re taking the time to enjoy your favorite activities. Whether it be reading a book, taking a walk, or going to events, doing the things you love can help to boost your mood.
- Keep Active – We’ve already discussed how exercise is important for battling depression. While you go about finding activities you enjoy, be sure to stay active in order to keep endorphins going. ¹²
- Quality Sleep – While depression can disrupt sleep, lack of quality sleep can also make symptoms worse. Therefore, it’s important to get the recommended 6 to 8 hours of sleep and ensure you have a consistent sleep schedule. ¹³
- Support System – You’ll want to stay connected with those you love and, more importantly, be open about your depression. By having open conversations and keeping in touch with others, you not only develop an emotional support system but also lower your risk of depression remission.
Can clinical depression be cured? There’s no evidence to suggest this. However, there’s plenty of evidence that with the right treatment, you can go onto live a quality life.
If you’re unsure of the direction that’s best for you, we highly recommend speaking to a mental health professional. They will have a better idea of your circumstances and what you’ll need to do to overcome depression.
So, can clinical depression be cured? The answer is complex and, therefore, you may still have some questions.
In such cases, we invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ Journal of Psychiatry for Neuroscience: Full remission: a return to normal functioning
³ HHS Public Access: Risk for Recurrence in Depression
⁴ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Depression
⁵ frontiers in Psychiatry: Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Is the Current Gold Standard of Psychotherapy
⁶ World Psychiatry: Interpersonal psychotherapy: principles and applications
⁷ Psychology Research and Behavior Management (Dovepress): Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: trends and developments
⁸ Journal of Clinical Medicine: Acupuncture for Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
¹⁰ National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH): St. John’s Wort and Depression: In Depth
¹¹ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
¹² The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed
¹³ Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience: Sleep disorders as core symptoms of depression