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Q. To confirm depression, how long should the symptoms last?

Answered by
Dr. Suresh Kumar G D
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on Jan 13, 2020 and last reviewed on: Jan 18, 2020

Hello doctor,

I have been having depression symptoms (hopelessness, feeling worthless, overwhelmed, cannot focus on anything, changes in sleep pattern, loss of appetite, suicidal thoughts, isolation, numb, feel like everything is an effort, cannot get out of bed and all that) for the past six years. But the thing is, the low phase just last minimum of three days to one and a half week. I have never been diagnosed with any mental health illnesses or taken any medications. On other days, I feel normal and hyper even. It is just that when that low phase hit, it hits hard like everything comes crashing down at once it is suffocating. Sometimes, I feel like banging my head on the wall just to feel something and other times I would scratch myself to stop feeling too much. It is intense. So I want to know what that is actually because for someone to have depression, the symptoms need to last for at least two weeks, right? but I am not. It is just there. It has been six years now but they just would not go away.

Dr. Suresh Kumar G D

Child Health Paediatrics Psychiatry


Welcome to

You are describing quite a lot of depressive symptoms that have been present episodically for six years. It is true that for a diagnosis of clinical depression the symptoms need to persist for two weeks but with such a prolonged history sub-threshold symptoms may be present. It will help if you can maintain a mood diary to objectively chart your mood.

You report feeling normal or hyper on other days, it will be helpful to have more information to ascertain what you mean by 'hyper'? Have you experienced any manic or hypomanic symptoms? It looks like you are having a mood disorder. With more information, we can classify further and you can be supported accordingly.

You also report headache and stomach ache but no physical causes were found. These are probably functional somatic symptoms. They are common in people with emotional problems (like depression and anxiety). Good thing is you will get better with appropriate support.

Have you discussed with your parents or close family member about your problems? I will suggest having an open chat with them (you can even show them this icliniq query). You can consult your family member who can refer you to a psychiatrist for treatment of your mood problems. You will be benefited from talking therapy or counseling. In severe cases, medication to help your mood can be prescribed.

Self-help measures are also beneficial. Start by eating, sleeping and exercising regularly. Try to follow progressive muscle relaxation exercises and deep breathing exercises.

I hope this helps.

Treatment plan:

Talking therapy, ? SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) medication.

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