My doctor recommends medication for my depression. Can I consider waiting to see if it will go away by itself?
Depression often occurs in cycles, and if an individual waits long enough, it may in fact remit without treatment. This may take months or longer, however. The risks of this approach are great: a loss of productivity in school or work, impaired relationships, family conflicts, financial problems, delays in development in children, and most significantly, suicide. Treatment of the depressive episode will greatly shorten its duration and enable you to participate in the community again sooner. In addition, research suggests that depression itself can have harmful effects on the brain. These effects may make you more susceptible to future depressive episodes, possibly more severe, in the future.
Untreated depression can have harmful effects on your physical health as well. Under stress, the body is less able to fight infection. Recovery from some physical illnesses may be adversely affected. Problems with sleep also impair the body’s functioning, resulting in further loss of energy and difficulties in concentrating.
Depressed persons are at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse, which can further worsen depressive symptoms and result in disability and problems with the law. Depressed persons are at risk of having problems in their relationships and getting a divorce. They may have difficulty developing strong attachments with their children.
Depressed children can have problems in their social and emotional development, making them at risk for further emotional problems in the future. Most significantly, untreated depression may increase the risk for suicide. Suicidal thoughts can gradually lead up to suicide attempts if the depression does not remit and feelings of hopelessness persists.
Treatment of depression is important for many reasons. A delay of its treatment may be as risky as delaying treatment for a multitude of medical conditions, such as heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.