Depression in Recovery Isn’t Like Untreated Depression
Depression in recovery often presents very differently compared to untreated depression, but that doesn't mean that the struggles aren't valid. It means that as symptoms improve and you find healthy coping mechanisms, your depression will start to manifest in different ways.
Depression in Recovery vs Untreated Depression
The following is six was in which recovery in depression is different from untreated depression:
- In recovery, depressive episodes are often shorter. Before you started seeking treatment for your depression, your depressive episodes may have lasted weeks or even months, but in recovery, you may experience the same feelings of intense hopelessness or apathy for just a few days. It can be a bit confusing, sorting out when you're feeling depressed and when you're experiencing normal human sadness, but therapy or counseling can help you learn the difference.
- Your depression might not scare you as much in recovery. When you're in recovery for depression, you may find that your illness doesn't scare you as much as it used to. When you first experience depression, the soul-sucking emptiness can bring on feelings of intense anxiety, and if it goes untreated, that anxiety typically continues to grow. But once you've started down the path to recovery, you may learn ways to cope with your depression that make it a little less alarming, and even having a name for what you're experiencing may make you feel less alone and less anxious.
- Recovering from depression may make you doubt your diagnosis. As you learn to deal with your depression and lessen its effect on your life, you may no longer meet the exact criteria for an official diagnosis of major depressive disorder, but in most cases, this doesn't mean you no longer have the illness or that you were faking all along. It just means that, at this point in time, you have recovered enough that your depression is no longer completely running your life, and that is a good thing, even if it can feel invalidating at times.
- Learned helplessness is common in depression recovery. Learned helplessness1 is a phenomenon that occurs when someone is put in a situation where they are powerless for so long, that they start feeling powerless in other, less hopeless situations as well. This is a common occurrence in depression recovery. It can be hard to feel capable and powerful when you know you have an illness that makes it hard to even get out of bed sometimes. Building up a sense of agency again takes time, and therapy and counseling are great resources for improving in this area.
- Depression in recovery may come with more mood swings. Instead of feeling hopeless and apathetic day in and day out, depression in recovery may look more like intense mood swings. This is known as emotional dysregulation2 and it's a common symptom of depression in recovery as the brain re-learns how to process the wide spectrum of human emotion.
- You may never feel fully "recovered," and that's okay. Some people feel that, with time and treatment, they can fully recover from their depression; but, others may experience their depression as a chronic illness that will never truly go away. If you realize that you are in the second situation when you expected to be in the first, it can be incredibly disappointing and upsetting. But rest assured, people with chronic illness can live fulfilling, meaningful lives, even if you never feel "cured." Again, therapy or counseling are great places to deal with these emotions and make a plan for what your recovery will truly look like over time.
Have you noticed a difference in your depression since starting on the journey toward recovery? Feel free to add your observations in the comments below.
- Ackerman C., "Learned Helplessness: Seligman's Theory of Depression (+ Cure)." PositivePsychology.com, March 2018.
- Bailer J., Witthöft M., et al., "Emotional Dysregulation in Hypochondriasis and Depression." Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, November 2017.
Griffith, M. (2019, August 27). Depression in Recovery Isn’t Like Untreated Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2019/8/depression-in-recovery-isnt-like-untreated-depression
Author: Megan Griffith
Hi, I was diagnosed with D.I.D. and to someone who is not familiar with it, they can often mistake it as bi-polar disease. While this is not the case, there is no classification for it that tells them otherwise. I am a text book case survivor of childhood sexual trauma, including incest, sexual molestation, physical and verbal abuse, brain washing, and exposure to the sex industry, and human trafficking. A little bit later in life I received a traumatic brain injury from an automobile accident, was in a coma for 30 days, and it took a year to learn how to walk again. In the past I have had to admit myself into mental hospitols to avoid a phsychotic break, suicidal idiation, etc.... But on paper it's categorized as bi-polar. I am getting better, and at the moment I feel mentally strong, but when pain comes I do project bi-polar characteristics. Can an article about the difference between bipolaraty, and D.I.D., (dissociative identity disorder,) be put on the web-site, or sent to my email address? Thank you so much, other people do not always know the difference. Please inform the public, I am done with accepting this diagnosis of bipolar. There's a difference, and I lived in the difference for around 30 years. I am better, and integrated now.
Thank you so much for your comment. Personally, I am more familiar with bipolar disorder than DID. You might want to check out our Dissociative Living blog. They have tons of articles on DID. I'm not sure but there's a good chance you will find some related articles there.