Life After Depression: How to Thrive – What Helps. What Gets in the Way

Life After Depression: How to Thrive - What Helps. What Gets in the Way

Depression keeps itself alive with an intense, overwhelming sense of hopelessness. This hopelessness kills the motivation to reach into the world for support, something that is already fragile because of the stigma that is so often attached to mental illness.

New research, published in the journal Psychiatry Research, offers a reason for hope. There is life after depression – a strong, healthy, happy life – and the research has found the factors that will help to make this possible and those that will get in the way.

In a study involving more than 2,500 people who had experienced a major depressive disorder at some time in their lives, researchers found that about two in five people (39%) were able to fully recover and experience full mental health. The researchers defined full mental health as:

  • experiencing happiness or life satisfaction almost every day for the last month;
  • a full year without depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or substance abuse; and
  • positive social and psychological well-being. 

The research revealed important findings about what helped, what hindered and what had no bearing at all on the likelihood of thriving after depression.

Life After Depression. How to Thrive

What makes the difference.

The research found that social support played a major role in achieving full mental health after depression.  Having at least one trusted friend quadrupled the likelihood of a full recovery.

Sometimes depression can make people feel as though they are just out of reach and loving someone with depression can be lonely, frustrating, painful and deeply worrying. If you’re close to someone with depression, you might feel as though you’re not making a difference, but that’s what depression does – it’s the dirty little liar that tries to pull the fight out of all of us – those who have the illness and those who care who would do anything to make it better for them. What this research is telling us is that being there, as a trusted friend, has the power to make an enormous difference in helping your loved one find the way out of depression. 

Formerly depressed adults who had emotionally supportive and close relationships were four times more likely to report complete mental health than those without such relationships. Having at least one trust friend was critical to cultivating complete mental health.” Mercedes Bern-Klug, Associate Professor, University of Iowa.

The research also found that hose who fully recovered from depression were more likely to deal with stress through exercise or spirituality.

There is so much research showing the remarkable capacity of exercise to reduce the symptoms of depression. Exercise restores the levels of two important neurotransmitters, glutamate and GABA, to healthy levels. It also seems to have a healing effect on the damage done by inflammation. Increasingly, research is finding that systemic inflammation is a major contributing factor to depression. Regularly exercising for periods between 8-20 minutes seems to be enough to make the difference.

The surprising factor that makes no difference at all. 

The length of time someone has been struggling with depression makes no difference to their ability to reach full mental health. According to the research, people who had experienced depression for over two years were just as able to fully recover and flourish in their lives after depression, as those who had the illness for only a month. 

What gets in the way of recovery.

The research also found a number of factors that seemed to undermine the likelihood of achieving full mental health after depression. These included poor physical health, chronic pain, insomnia, and a history of substance abuse.

The take-aways.

One of the reasons that depression is so debilitating is because the core symptoms of depression make it hard to reach out for support or to keep up the for the way out. When they combine forces, lethargy, sadness, emptiness, and intense feelings of hopelessness put up a mighty push against even the strongest, bravest and most determined human spirit. The social isolation and stillness that comes from this feeds depression and makes recovery even harder, but where social isolation hurts, social connection heals.

This research gives hope and encouragement to keep up the fight. Many people who experience depression will fully recover. Many others will find some level of relief from their symptoms. There is no quick fix for depression, but there is great hope for healing. The fight is worth it – the capacity to flourish in life after depression is there.



I’d be interested in hearing how people cope with a depressed spouse who is self absorbed even when well, won’t talk about his depression yet expects support and cannot show any empathy in return.
More focus should also be attached to those who care for, or live with, someone with depression as their stories are untold. Carers are very likely to get depressed themselves.

Hey Sigmund

Anita your stories are untold – I absolutely agree with you. Depression never only affects one life. Loving someone with depression can be such a lonely thing. This it what depression does – it isolates people. I know there would be so many others who would relate to what you are going through. We desperately need a cure for this don’t we. Know that there is a lot of research happening in the area so hopefully they aren’t too far off.


The carer also needs a friend and supporter away from the main depressed person.


Gosh, I was so relieved to read this. My spouse is exactly like this. It’s exhausting. Also if I’m going through a bit of stress, he is doubly stressed and I’ve learned to be pretty emotionally self-sufficiet and keep my emotions contained as much as I can. Thankfully I’ve got wonderful friends to support me.


How do u develop friendships when u r trying to live after depression with some symptoms still? It’s a vicious cycle & making friends is next to impossible.

Jenny Bohner

That is spot on! There is a support group called ARAFEMI in Australia to help carers of depressed people. They will send you some literature if you request it. Unfortunately, depression does seem to cause the person to become self-absorbed, and it can actually be quite helpful for the person to do some volunteer work. Being helpful seems to make them less depressed. Good luck to you.


Hi Anita. What you described about depressed spouse is exactly what I am going through right now with my husband. He shows no emphaty and shuts down totally. I am very lost and in depression. I can’t find my way out.

neil s

There is a time, you have to cut the cord, and look after no. 1. Most of the time, this makes the cared for ( or sometimes the narcissist, I’m afraid it’s true) work on them selves, knowing it’s sink or swim. This is not selfishness. 2 people drowning is no good to anyone…..

Luke B

He can’t help it he comes off as self absorbed because he’s battling to feel the way he used To feel and read what he said going through… rn ting the feel confidence so instead he’s talking to you about the man he used to be or what’s wrong because he knows something is wrong there’s something underlying factor emotional more than likely that’s hurting him and preoccupying his mind so he can’t do the things he used to do. Trust me he doesn’t mean to u need to show love support And help him remember the man he used to be.. he’d be there for u in time.


To add to the above, with which I agree, children of those suffering depression are vitally in need of understanding, compassion and support.


how do i deal with the constant thoughts of taking my own life, when my medication isnt helping me any. in fact im afraid its making me worse. i feel like my only support is my girlfriend, but shes in a different state and i currently have no way of communicating with her other than through letters. i just constantly think about ways to end my life and im tired of crying everynight and having these episodes of rage or complete sadness. i just want to get better but its been 5 years and ive just been getting worse. any advice please? at this point anything would help.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Tori please please please go back to your doctor. Antidepressants can take a little while to work, but if you’ve been on them for a while (longer than six weeks), or if you feel as though they are making you feel worse, it might be that these are the right ones for you. There are plenty of other options though in terms of medication. Your doctor will be able to help you with this. Also, read this article. There are other things that can help. Mindfulness and exercise done together can reduce symptoms by up to 40%. This is because of the way they change the brain and help to protect it against depression. There is a lot of really reliable, strong research that has found that mindfulness and exercise can really help with depression but when they are done together, they can be powerful. Here is an article that explains it.

It’s really important to keep in your mind that one of the symptoms of depression is feelings of hopelessness. What this means is that your feelings of hopelessness aren’t because things are hopeless, but because that’s what your depression is telling you right now. Things won’t always be like this. I know how awful and debilitating depression can be but it really can be managed. Please talk to your doctor and read the article I have linked to in this comment. You won’t feel like exercising or meditation but it can really make a difference. Exercise can just be a 30 minute walk outside. For the meditation part, there are plenty of apps that can help you but one that I like is the Smiling Mind app. You can download it for free here Do this two things and give it at least for weeks. If in the meantime you feel as though you are really struggling and thinking about suicide, please call one of the numbers here. I can’t tell which country you are from, but wherever you are there will be somewhere you can get 24 hour support

You will get through this. Keep fighting for you – one day, I promise, you will look back and be so grateful that you did. Love and strength to you.


I got depression when i was in 9th grade now i have passed 12th …but being from a less aware family about mental ilness i didn’t get the well medication..any how i passed my 10th and for further study i went to a city where i started my medication after a log hardship as people started thinking that its not a illness but just my thoughts…but anyhow i started but it didn’t help me muc.then i came to Delhi as i am currently living here and started my medication in aiims i am improving day by day but i think each day is still harder..iys my 5th months of treatment , everyday there is a trauma ,sadness,lonliness, hopelessness..i am unable to concentrate on my studies…plz give me suggestions what to do now..and yes i have not told anyone even my parents don’t know i am depressed and having medication

Karen Young

Zeeshaan I wish you could know how many people have depression and would absolutely understand what you are going through. Depression is so common and there is absolutely no shame in it at all. It is a physiological condition, and although we aren’t really sure exactly what causes it, it is likely to be a combination of factors that could happen to anybody. Perhaps the most important things you can do to help your recovery are exercise, meditation and sleep. There are many articles on this link about the things that can help. Please take your time to look through them and see what feels right for you If you are taking your medication, it’s important that you continue to do so under the supervision of your doctor. I also want you to know that you can get through this. Your are brave, strong and resilient – you’ve proven that. Hang in there and keep fighting for you.


I’m fighting depression for years ,l was bullied in a factory years ago.l live in the past all the time .lm trying to feel well but it is hard.

say so

I have have had supersized depression for decades probably 30 years or so. Mostly cane about through abusive family.
What has really helped me was to deal with my abusers. The in usual thing was that my abusers were close members meaning family starting with mother. I had to bite the bullet and deal with these people. My mother was always to threatening to curse me so I asked her to do it and basically cut her out of my life. I did not even attend her burial. My damaged brothers and sisters were too damaged for my mental health. So again it was painful to kick them out of my life. They have continued to struggle to continue abuse but I have got better and better.
I almost feel cured.
The point is I dealt seriously and aggressively with the sources of my mental illnessness.
It was not easy. These were family.
The collateral damage was massive.
But my mental health comes first. I am glad I took the hard road. I am glad I am now healed.


I’m reading through these comments and while I empathize with most people who have been bullied etc, I felt relieved when reading your experience.

Having grown up in an abusive family, only after cutting them out of my life I started to understand what a game that environment had played on me and how the things I was used to (my coping habits) were the worst parts of my character.

It’s only been a year but day after day I’m feeling negative stuff coming out of my system, when I’m at work, in my dreams, it’s almost surreal. Toxic conversations and imagery that have happened decades ago that I didn’t even remember just pop up in the middle of the day, crystal clear.

If anyone reading this lives with an abusive family, don’t just walk away, run. Your mental health should be your top priority. Even the most beautiful memories you have could be just you in denial.

Phil Hamilton

As someone who almost died from depression 30+ years ago, I appreciate your informing the public in this article.

Instead of saying a variation of “A study has shown” or “Research has found”, I wish you had cited the research you referred to in a number of places. The Internet is packed with information, some of it reliable and some of it not. Citing the studies would let your readers check out the research.

Thanks again for publicizing a topic that some people still feel afraid to talk about.

Karen Young

Hi Phil – the original research article is hyperlinked to the name of the journal in the second paragraph. Just look for the blue writing and it will take you to the original research papers. All the ‘research’ in that articles refers to this study unless it is otherwise mentioned or hyperlinked. Hope that helps.


Anone else have that feeling like you don’t know what to do with your everyday life because when I had depression my life was all bout trama or thinking about it day and night now I barley know myself…And if you think about it it’s kinda sad I gotta take pills to be happy but at least I’m not in deep thought each day I guess but still don’t feel as normal


Completely agree with you. I’ve lost my whole personality and everyday is a struggle even with medication. I’m just hanging on to that one day when it’s over, keep fighting. There are lots of people struggling, communicate with others.


My GOODNESS Adam!!! I have been trying to verbise your statement for years! Depression hit me in my mid teens and now I am 30, was diagnosed at 27.

People at my age have so much life experience and direction. I have scars, an able body, an “able” mind and no self-motivated reason to live.

For now, I will hold on to the idea of a better tomorrow as presented in this article.


I have the same problem. No direction in life. I got sick at 20 and now that I’m better I’m 30. I lost all my friends, family, and really just lived in bed. Now that I’m better it’s hard to know what to do with myself. I sit at home all day without a single thing to do and that in itself is pretty depressive. I often ask myself “what do people do all day” I’m not healthy enough to work yet, otherwise I think that would keep me busy and motivated for something. Had agoraphobia for so long as well and a fear of germs so sometimes it’s still easier to stay inside. I just feel trapped in a whole different way, because I can leave my house now just have nothing to do. Nothing to progress towards or goals to reach. Everyday really feels meaningless and like this is all for nothing.

Nasim k

Hello friends in 9 th standard I got depressed now I am in class 12 I was struggling from anxiety but now I am full mentally fit full physically fit and ?have lot of friends. Socially fit I have 2 year of medical treatment. But i cannot fully fit .so I started friendly life and forget the all past. I saw in month that I am changing .i believe in god very much. Now I am fully fit and enjoy every moment.


The best way to deal with depression is cutting all ties with everyone who knows you, except one or two you are completely comfortable with. And, then, meeting new people and making a new circle. Getting yourself occupied with new things like fitness, travel, healthy food. And, then, never give up on those things. This is what worked for me.

Loretta R

I completely agree with this approach. This is what I have been doing for about a year now. Making new friends, contributing to friendship and the community are what it is about. Fitness is another thing. Yesterday I went on an 8 mile walk! Today I am doing restorative yoga. I keep chugging one day at a time.


I’ll try your 3rd step. I have already done that cutting all ties with everyone and keeping one or two friends. I am gonna meet new people like finding a job. I also started in fitness like mountain biking.

rose p

I thank you all for your bravery it is hard sometimes just to write what is happening you think you are crazy and alone like looking out of a window and you are not in the real world you lost normal activities dressing caring about how u look everything is work if u get dressed u can not know what to wear everything is work in your head, so lost the pain I feel for everybody that is stuck in depression can so feel your pain please fight I am no choice I am going to try these suggestions God Bless

Vickie A

My family is why I am depressed and it has been for many years. Being a child of divorce is never easy. I think this is when my depression began. I wanted to get away from this situation so bad that I married before I was ready. I loved someone else, but his family didn’t think I was good enough. He was a son of a doctor. I was the daughter of a mechanic. Just another reason for feeling rejection. I had felt rejected by my mother when my father kicked her out for committing adultery. Something she says didn’t happen.
I eventually fell in love with my husband. He is a good man. But, I still had family issues that kept me torn up. Because of the divorce, my brother became an alcoholic. He got a girl pregnant and when the baby was born, I begged him to marry her. A BIG MISTAKE! She was a whore from a low life family! I don’t mean to stand in judgement, but it is the truth. My brother’s wife had sex with her own brother. So I have been told.
My brother worked away, and while he was gone, she let her 10 and 13 year old daughters smoke pot and drink. Nothing good ever happened in this family. My brother went to jail several times for spousal abuse, trumped up accusations. My father and I had to help keep his family up for over 20 years. My father remarried twice and the second wife, as well as my father got tired of giving them money when they wouldn’t do the right thing with their money, which was to pay the bills. So finally, my father washed his hands of him, but years later after grandchildren came into play. As a result, I was placed in the position by my brother to be the sole provider for his family. His wife began selling drugs to support their habits. His daughters ended up being drug addicts because of the crowd they hung out with and each produced two children a piece who all have different fathers that want nothing to do with the children. So, I felt sorry for the children and would buy them school clothes each year as well as help my brother keep the utilities on for their sake. The grandchildren ended up being in the care of my brother.
Well, on October 3, 2017, my brother and his wife were arrested for dealing drugs. So they lost custody of the grandchildren. They were placed with family members. My niece, Ashley, ended up being arrested a few weeks later for several reasons and her children had to be placed somewhere. Her oldest had already went to live with her father’s brother and wife when she dropped them off on my brother and abandoned them to chase after another man.
All that being said, Ashley’s youngest had to end up being put in Foster Care. I was asked to take her, but I am older with health issues who never had children of my own. I didn’t feel like I could handle it. So, now I can’t have any contact with her. I was used to buying her clothes and seeing her on a regular basis while she was placed with an Aunt by marriage, who ended up having to giver her up because she was too old and not able to care for the child. Now I feel guilty about that and have to deal with my brother and his family being in jail. I am the only member of the family that has anything to do with them because I am in charge of their finances.
In addition to all of this, my sister, her daughter, and me have had words because I didn’t approve of my niece getting engaged before she finished school. They said some things that really hurt me and I don’t think I will ever forget. I have since apologized and my sister and I are kinda talking again, But, my niece won’t have anything to do with me and that hurts.
But to back up several years, I need to explain that after 27 years of working with American Standard, my husband lost his job because the plant shut down. He had worked there since he had graduated college, so he had worked his way up the ranks and became Controller of the plant making good money. He was fortunate enough to find another job at the age of 50, but with a decrease in pay. While waiting to completely shut the plant down, he lost $700,000.00 when the market collapsed. Our future had been grossly affected. I was a school teacher, but had retired early due to illness, so I wasn’t drawing the max amount that I could have been drawing. I felt like my life was over and tried to kill myself with an overdose of sleeping pills. Needless to say, it didn’t work and I had to start seeing a Psychiatrist. I was given medication for depression. But, I didn’t care if they worked or not. I had to take a job making minimum wage and it was humiliating for me, someone with a college degree who had been a teacher. So I started drinking. Now I think I have become an alcoholic, not only for everything that has happened to me, but because I don’t get along with my stepmother. Therefore, I have very little contact with my elderly father. I wish to die everyday. But, I know my punishment will be to have to live all alone with out my husband or parents.


wow ,what a history. The alcohol won’t help. I’ve used the 12 rooms. Some relief there. In fact, I’ve been avoiding my program for some time. I’ going back.

neil s

There is a time, you have to cut the cord, and look after no. 1. Most of the time, this makes the cared for ( or sometimes the narcissist, I’m afraid it’s true) work on them selves, knowing it’s sink or swim. This is not selfishness. 2 people drowning is no good to anyone…..


How do u live life after depression and have still some depression. How do u make friends when u haven’t been around people 48 years, it’s a vicious cycle. Need to be around people but u really don’t or can’t make yourself be around people. How do u make friends or even acquaintances?


Hey beth.
My name is Yasmin.
Even if you do not care and everything seems stupid and pointless and we are all going to die one day mentality is evident. My advice is be open, engage in conversation ask questions and mantain the habit of going there. <3

Sianny M

Hi, long term depression isn’t easy but what about joining a yoga class or art class? Choose something that interests you? Good luck x

Jostine Gafane

I lost my loved one because I was depressed, all my frustration I took it out on them. And now they want nothing to do with me.

Skylar W

It’s interesting to learn that social support played such an important role in recovering after depression. My mother has struggled with depression for years now, but she’s never got help before. I’ll do my best to support her while also encouraging her to see a professional.


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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."

 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.

 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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