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10 min read

What happens if depression is left untreated?

Written by Klarity Editorial Team

Published: Apr 12, 2024

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zoe Russell

Table of contents

Depression is often misunderstood as just a bad mood or passing phase. But it’s more than that. And when left untreated can affect your mood and overall quality of life. 

In this blog, we explore what happens if depression is left untreated, including the psychological, physical, and social effects. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Understanding the risks is the first step toward change, and with the right support and treatment, the cycle of depression can be broken, and the path to recovery becomes clear.

If you’re struggling with major depressive disorder, don’t wait to get treatment. Find a provider on Klarity today to treat your depression symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of depression

Looking inward and recognizing the warning signs of depression can be challenging, but it’s an essential step toward receiving help. If you’ve been experiencing several of the following symptoms, it may be time to reach out for professional support. Early intervention can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of treatment and recovery of depression, which can manifest as:

  • Persistent dadness or hopelessness: a deep, pervasive sense of sadness that doesn’t go away, often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness or emptiness.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure: a noticeable lack of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including hobbies, social activities, or sex.
  • Changes in appetite or weight: significant weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting or changes in appetite, either increased or decreased.
  • Sleep disturbances: insomnia, difficulty falling or staying asleep, or oversleeping (hypersomnia).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy: feeling excessively tired or having little to no energy almost every day, even without physical exertion.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt: harsh criticism of oneself for perceived faults and mistakes or feeling unworthy.
  • Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions: trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Physical symptoms without clear physical cause: headaches, digestive issues, or chronic pain that doesn’t respond to routine treatment.
  • Irritability or restlessness: feeling agitated, restless, or even violent; tolerance level is low, temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Social wthdrawal: pulling away from friends, family, and social activities that you used to enjoy.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide: frequent thoughts about death, dying, or suicide. This may include contemplating suicide or forming a plan to commit suicide.

Psychological effects of leaving depression unaddressed

When depression is left untreated, it can impact the mind. Emotional symptoms get worse over time, turning sadness into deep despair and increasing anxiety to a point where it’s hard to relax. The mind can become alarmingly dark, sometimes leading to suicidal thoughts as feelings of hopelessness fester.

This mental struggle goes beyond just feeling bad. Depression affects cognitive function, making it hard to focus, make decisions, or remember things. This can lead to problems at school or work, hurt relationships, and make everyday tasks difficult. It creates a cycle that makes the depression even deeper.

Physical health consequences

The reach of depression extends beyond the confines of mental health, manifesting in a variety of physical effects and depressive symptoms. The disruption of sleep patterns — whether it’s the inability to sleep or sleeping too much — erodes physical health, leading to a state of perpetual fatigue and diminished energy. Appetite changes, coupled with weight fluctuations, can disrupt metabolic health and exacerbate feelings of low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction.

But perhaps more concerning is the impact of untreated depression on chronic health conditions. The stress and inflammation associated with prolonged depressive states can worsen cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of heart disease. 

Managing type 2 diabetes can also become more challenging with untreated depression as the motivation for self-care diminishes, and the body’s response to insulin can be affected by the stress hormones associated with depression.

Social and emotional toll of ignoring depression

Untreated depression can affect relationships and daily social interactions. Those suffering may find themselves pulling away from friends and family, declining social invitations, and spending increasing amounts of time alone. This isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and despair, further deepening the depressive state.

The emotional toll of depression on relationships can be profound. Communication breakdowns become more frequent as the person struggling with depression may find it hard to articulate their feelings or withdraw from conversations altogether. Loved ones, in turn, feel helpless or frustrated, not understanding how to bridge the growing gap. The result is a vicious cycle: as depression deepens, the social network that is crucial for support becomes strained and less accessible, making it even more challenging to seek help or find relief.

Long-term risks when depression goes unchecked

Over time, the consequences of depression left untreated can become more severe and far-reaching. One of the most dangerous risks is the increased susceptibility to substance abuse. Individuals may turn to alcohol or drug abuse as a way to self-medicate and escape their feelings of deep sadness, anxiety, or isolation. This path can lead to addiction, further complicating the treatment for depression and impacting virtually every aspect of life.

Another significant depression risk is the decreased ability to function in daily life. The cumulative effects of depression left untreated can lead to difficulties maintaining employment, achieving academic goals, or fulfilling personal responsibilities. This decline in functioning can result in a significant reduction in quality of life, with long-term implications for financial stability, personal achievements, and overall well-being. 

Untreated depression poses significant safety concerns, notably an increased risk of self-harm or suicide, as individuals may struggle to cope with overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness. To mitigate these risks, establishing a support system is crucial. This should include mental health professionals, trusted friends or family members, and helplines like suicide prevention hotlines, ensuring immediate access to help during moments of crisis.

If you’re experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, remember that support is always available. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988 to speak with someone who can provide immediate assistance.

Can the effects of untreated depression be reversed?

With timely and appropriate intervention, many of the effects of untreated depression can be reversed. The journey to recovery begins with acknowledging the problem and seeking help from a mental health professional like the providers on Klarity. This can be a challenging step, especially when depression can erode your sense of hope or self-worth, but it is an essential one for getting on the path to recovery.

Treatment starts with a depression diagnosis and then typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Depression therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can provide individuals with strategies to manage negative thoughts and behaviors, while medications can help correct chemical imbalances affecting mood. Lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, a healthy diet, and sufficient sleep, can further support recovery.

Prevention and early intervention

The adage “prevention is better than cure” holds especially true for mental health conditions like depression. Early detection and intervention serve as critical shields, and awareness of risk factors, such as genetic predispositions, significant life changes, or traumatic events like physical or sexual abuse, is paramount, along with vigilance for early signs. 

Schools, workplaces, and community organizations play vital roles in education and early intervention, providing resources and support to those who may be on the cusp of a depressive episode.

Effective therapies and medications

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a cornerstone in the treatment of depression, empowers individuals to recognize and challenge distorted thought patterns and behaviors contributing to their depression. Medications like antidepressants can offer significant relief by addressing the chemical imbalances in the brain associated with depression. 

The decision to begin a treatment plan involving therapy, medication, or a combination of both should be made in close consultation with healthcare professionals, tailoring the approach to your specific situation, needs, and preferences. This dialogue is even more important should you believe you have treatment-resistant depression.

Support systems and lifestyle changes

The journey through major depression should never be taken alone. A strong support system can provide the encouragement, understanding, and accountability necessary to recover successfully. Alongside professional treatment, lifestyle changes can have a profound impact on mental health.

A diet rich in nutrients supports brain health, while regular exercise releases endorphins, combating the feelings of sadness and chronic fatigue associated with depression. Sufficient, quality sleep is another pillar of mental well-being, helping to regulate mood and improve cognitive function. Together, these elements forge a holistic approach to overcoming depression, addressing both the mind and the body.

Holistic alternatives

For individuals seeking additional avenues of relief, holistic alternative treatments can complement traditional methods. Practices like meditation and yoga offer solace and stability, grounding you in the present moment and alleviating the stress and anxiety that often accompany clinical depression. Acupuncture, with its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, is another option, believed to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms and balance the flow of energy.

Find a mental health provider to treat your depression

It may seem overwhelming to initiate the process of seeking mental health support, but Klarity simplified things, so your depression doesn’y have to go untreated. With just a few clicks, you can connect with experienced mental health professionals ready to guide you through your options for depression treatment.

Take the first step toward a brighter, more hopeful future. Find a mental health provider on Klarity today


Yale Medicine, “Yes, Stress Can Hurt Your Heart: 3 Things to Know,” Kathy Katella, Feb. 12, 2024,

Science & Practice Perspectives, “Mood Disorders and Substance Use Disorder: A Complex Comorbidity,” Quello, Susan B., Brady, Kathleen T., and Sonne, Susan C., Dec. 3, 2005,

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