The No-Treatment Option for Depression

Medical Reviewer

It may seem odd to be informed that not treating depression is a viable choice. Well it is and the reality is that most people with depression probably follow this path without even giving it a thought. It’s estimated that four out of five people with depression will simply come through it untreated. The way we view depression has changed considerably over the past couple of decades. Once depression may have been considered some exaggeration of simple sadness but it is now regarded much more seriously. Even so, left untreated it may take anything from three to six months, perhaps longer, but depression is more likely to resolve than it is to worsen. It begs the question, why bother treating depression at all?

We can approach the answer in a variety of ways but one glaring observation is the sheer scale of the problem. It is estimated that depression affects some 121 million people globally. Around one in every 10 Americans will be affected at some point and the number of patients diagnosed with depression increases by around 20% per year. Even if we factor in the likelihood of around 80% of clinically depressed people not receiving treatment it is costly both in human and financial terms.

If you’re the gambling type you might fancy your chances of coming out of depression without treatment. But what if the odds aren’t in your direction? It isn’t really possible to tell who will recover and who might worsen, so the danger is that your depression might go on for years if left untreated. It’s a miserable prospect, which leads to the next obvious question, why put yourself through it when there are treatments available?

Treatments for depression, it has to be said, don’t work for everyone. They boil down to the mainstream choices of medication or talk-therapy, or some combination of the two. There is a something of a myth that a psychiatrist can only properly treat depression. In fact the vast majority of people with depression will never progress past their family doctor. Mild depression responds well to talk therapy whereas more severe forms of depression may respond to medication. Therapy however is a choice.

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Dr Jerry Kennard is a psychologist and co-founder of