Flourishing after an experience with major depression is more likely if you have supportive relationships. Family, friends and professional mental health supports are vital for a full and resilient recovery. And even if a person does not fully recover, meaning they may improve considerably but continue to have some symptoms, relationships will significantly improve their lives.
Taking medication will change brain chemistry, but this is not enough. Brain chemistry alone will not bring on recovery from depression. It takes an overall approach that will harness the power of our relationships and well-being.
A Canadian study involving 20,000 adults found that 2528 had been diagnosed with major depression. Major depression is a more severe type of depression, where symptoms have a severe effect on a person’s life, their work, their relationships and their health. Common symptoms of major depression include deep and pervasive sadness, unexplained anger or frustration, loss of interest or pleasure in activities that used to give us pleasure, lack of energy, suicidal thoughts or actions, sleep disturbances and changes in appetite. For a complete list of the symptoms of Major Depression, visit this site run by the Mayo Clinic.
Authors of the study found that approximately 40% of those diagnosed with major depression recovered fully, being free of symptoms for at least one year. They write,
“Our findings provide a hopeful message for both clients and clinicians: it is within the grasp of many individuals who have previously succumbed to depression to fully flourish and achieve complete mental health.”
Interestingly, the study found that there are three other main factors that can determine the quality of a person’s recovery. They are:
- Feeling rested and experiencing a good night’s sleep
- Being pain free
- Overall physical health and sense of being physically capable
Medications are important for recovery from depression, but recovery will not occur with medication alone. Taking medication will change brain chemistry, but this is not enough. Brain chemistry alone will not bring on recovery from depression. It takes an overall approach that will harness the power of our relationships and well-being (sleep, finding relief from physical pain and engaging in physical exercise).
The study found additional factors that impacted participant’s recovery from depression:
- Income. Those earning more than $80,000 per year were more likely to be fully recovered than those earning less than $20,000 per year.
- Having religious faith.
- Taking part in physical exercise.
- Age and gender. Older people and women were also more likely to have fully recovered
- Childhood abuse. On the negative side, people who’d experienced abuse in childhood or who’d been diagnosed with anxiety disorders in the past were less likely to have attained full mental health.
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I invite you to read some of my recent writing on depression recovery:
The Doctor and His Quiet Depression
What I Learned About Depression from Johann Hari
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Photo by Kathleen Conklin