How does one recover from depression?

How long does it take for a person to recover from MDD?

The time taken can vary from individual to individual.

With medication we expect some changes in the first few weeks and remission of symptoms usually takes one to two months.

For a first episode of depression, it would then typically require maintenance medication of 6 to 12 months from the time they are well.

Are antidepressants enough to cure a person from MDD?

For some people antidepressants may be all that is needed.

More often we need to help the person address and remove the causative stressors.

Psychological treatment is also useful and correcting the automatic negative thoughts associated with depression. Good social support is also essential in recovery.

Why are there patients with recurrent or drug-resistant MDD? Why do some of them never seem to recover 'for good'?

In some patients the depression may be more challenging to treat but even these patients can recover with suitable interventions. In these patients the need for psychological and social intervention is usually even more important, and medication treatment may require combination rather than mono-therapy.

Depression can also take a chronic course in some patients as the serotonin balance is unable to recover without medication. In such a situation it becomes more akin to hypertension and long term maintenance medication may be needed to prevent relapses.

The most important thing to remember is that depression is not a sign of mental weakness and is a medical condition. It is something that can be treated and there is no shame in seeking medical treatment. Confide in trusted friends and family, and also try to get some exercise.

Answer provided by Dr Nelson Lee, a consultant psychiatrist at The Psychological Wellness Centre.