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Depression Recovery: 6 Signs You’re Making Progress

Medically reviewed by Paul Ballas, D.O.
Written by Emily Wagner, M.S.
Posted on March 31, 2023

Living with depression can feel like a constant uphill battle. Starting treatment with medication and therapy can help you regain control of your emotions. Your doctor may recommend starting psychotherapy (talk therapy), such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), taking antidepressants — or both.

However, it can take several weeks for these medications to begin working, and sometimes even longer for therapy to start feeling effective. So you may be wondering, “How do I know I’m making any progress in my depression recovery?”

If you’ve had depression for a long time, it can be difficult to imagine what it’s like to feel better. You may feel tired all the time, have lost interest in your favorite activities, or are easily angered or irritated in your daily life. These symptoms of depression might seem like they’ll never end.

Everyone experiences depression differently, and you’ll likely have a different set of symptoms compared to other people. However, it can still help to have an idea of what to expect during the recovery process.

In this article, we’ll discuss six signs that your depression treatments are working and you’re on your way to recovery.

1. You’re Able To Get Things Done

Depression may interfere with your ability to function on a daily basis. Completing simple tasks can seem nearly impossible. You may have a harder time getting out of bed, keeping up with your personal hygiene, and completing daily chores.

When you’re recovering from depression, you may notice that some of these tasks become easier over time. You start to wake up on time in the morning, you begin showering more often, and taking out the trash doesn’t feel as overwhelming as it used to.

While these changes don’t happen overnight, you’ll slowly notice you’re getting better at juggling multiple aspects of your life. Soon you’ll be able to handle more or nearly all of the daily activities that you once could.

It’s important to not put too much pressure on yourself to return to a certain level of functioning. Setting small goals for yourself like showering every other evening or doing the dishes three nights a week can help you feel accomplished without becoming overwhelmed.

2. Your Appetite Has Returned to Normal

Some people living with depression experience either a loss or an increase in appetite. Depression can also cause extreme tiredness or fatigue and a loss of interest in activities. Some people find it too difficult or tiring to cook food, or they simply lose interest in eating. If you love cooking or baking but are experiencing depression, these activities may suddenly seem too daunting, overwhelming, or uninteresting. Weight loss can also accompany a loss in appetite.

Others turn to food to get them through a depressive episode. You may have trouble stopping eating even if you’re full, or you may not feel satisfied after eating. Eating certain foods can trigger the reward center in your brain, which is why some people turn to eating to find emotional relief.

Signs of recovery can include seeing your appetite return and, if you enjoy cooking, looking forward to preparing meals again. If you’ve lost weight from not eating, you’ll start gaining it back. Conversely, you may start losing unwanted weight if you’ve stopped overeating.

3. Your Mood Has Stabilized

Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness are common in people living with depression. Some people also experience mood swings, including outbursts of anger, frustration, or irritation from small matters that normally don’t bother them. And some people don’t feel any emotions at all.

As you recover from depression, you’ll notice that your mood begins to stabilize. You may still feel sad or down from time to time, but it no longer interferes with your ability to get up, go to work, and live your day-to-day life. You begin to find more joy in things and you’re generally in a happier mood. If you were previously easily angered or irritated, you’ll now have more patience.

Your thoughts drive your mood — if you’ve been attending therapy sessions, you may also start to notice changes in your thought patterns and behaviors. Therapy helps change your way of thinking to avoid negative thoughts or destructive behaviors that may be contributing to your depression. With a more positive outlook on life, it’s easier to be in a better mood.

4. Your Relationships Have Improved

Depression can put a strain on relationships with your partners, family members, and friends. Moods often change during depression, which can affect communication or make it difficult to be around others. If you’re frequently irritated or angry, your friends and family may begin to avoid you.

During therapy, you begin learning new coping skills to regulate your emotions and help you better handle conflict. Problems that once seemed too big to handle are now much more manageable. One type of talk therapy is interpersonal therapy (IPT), which helps you work through depression caused by a recent life event. Through IPT, you learn new ways of interacting with the people in your life and how to cope with changes.

Throughout your recovery process, you’ll have the chance to test out your new knowledge and skills from therapy to make more positive changes in your life. Relationships become less strained, and you’re able to communicate your needs and set healthy boundaries.

5. You Have Fewer Depression Relapses

Studies estimate that up to 60 percent of people who have had an episode of major depressive disorder (MDD) will develop depression again. This is known as a relapse, and depression treatment focuses on preventing these recurrences.

If your treatment plan is helping you recover, you’re less likely to experience a relapse. Sticking to your treatment plan is the best way to ensure your depression continues to improve while reducing your risk of relapse.

6. Your Therapist Changes Your Diagnosis

As you continue treatment, your health care provider will check in occasionally to see how your symptoms are improving. They may have you fill out questionnaires that ask you to score your depression symptoms to measure how they’re changing over time. For most scales, the higher your score, the more severe your depression.

At the time of your diagnosis, you may have been experiencing several symptoms. As your medications begin working and you progress through therapy, your scores should drop, and your doctor or therapist may change your diagnosis. This is a sign that you’re recovering from depression and your symptoms are improving.

Talk to Your Doctor About Your Depression Recovery

If you’d like to learn more about what your recovery from depression should look like for your specific circumstances, talk to your medical team. Your doctor or therapist can help you better understand what to expect as you begin feeling better. They can also optimize your treatment plan to help you recover as quickly as possible and improve your overall well-being.

It’s also important to note that recovery from depression isn’t always smooth, and you’ll continue to have ups and downs. This is normal, but you should generally be feeling better as time goes on.

One MyDepressionTeam member shared, “So yesterday I started to feel unwell in the evening and today I’ve felt upset and lost my appetite. I’ve been great for four weeks with no problems at all. Does anyone experience these little setbacks?”

Another member replied, “I think we all go through setbacks. It’s as though one goes two steps forward and then one step back.”

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyDepressionTeam is the social network for people with depression and their loved ones. On MyDepressionTeam, more than 143,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with depression and bipolar disorder.

What signs have you noticed in your recovery from depression? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Posted on March 31, 2023
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    Paul Ballas, D.O. is an attending psychiatrist at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
    Emily Wagner, M.S. holds a Master of Science in biomedical sciences with a focus in pharmacology. She is passionate about immunology, cancer biology, and molecular biology. Learn more about her here.

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