Common questions about depression, anxiety, and academic stress answered by pediatric psychiatrist, Dr. Andrew Diederich M.D.

Frequently asked questions


How long does depression last?

It varies a lot depending on the person but by definition, symptoms have to last for at least 2 weeks. Untreated depression can actually go on for months; therefore, it's important to seek professional help when needed becase the goal of treatment is to end the symptoms as soon as possible.

Can depression come back after already having had it?

Yes. In fact, people who have had depression are actually more prone in experiencing it again. Stastically, each episode of depression will increase your chances. After one recovery, there is a 50% chance of it returning, after 2 recoveries there's an 80% chance of it returning, and after 3 episodes it goes into a 90% chance.

Can depression be prevented?

No, and realistically we don't know how if there even is a way. It doesn't segregate out by whether you've had a lot of stressors or haven't. It's completely random, but a lot of stressors can certainly make it worse.

Why is depression such a common mental illness?

With a lot of research over the years, depression has become an illness that we can identify readily. It used to not even be considered a thing, but over the years with all the increasing evidence doctors have developed a good understanding of this illness, making it easier to diagnose, causing it to be more prevalent now.

What's the difference between grief and depression?

Grief is going to be a series of negative emotions that can happen after a major loss and this is a completely natural human response. The emotions are going to be directly related to this loss and there aren't going to be all the symptoms of depression. Complicated grief can look a lot like a mood disorder and can sometimes end up transitioning into depression, but the key difference is grief won't have the entire feature set of depression.

How can I help someone I know that may be dealing with depression?

Typically the main thing that you can do is just listen to them, allowing them to talk to someone. However, it's also important to recognize when they might need further help. Whether it's telling a parent or alerting a school counselor, making sure you let someone know can be extremely helpful to them.

Can depression affect anyone?

Absolutely, any socioeconomic status, any nationality, anybody.


What causes an anxiety disorder to develop?

There really is no specific pathway as it can happen a few different ways. Your genetics and environment can both impact the chances, but there are really so many variables so it's hard to say.

How long does it take before people start to feel better?

It can take around 4 to 6 six weeks with good treatment, usually using a combination of medicine and talk therapy. Additionally if there's an immediate stressor, addressing that problem can help relieve a lot of the symptoms.

How likely are anxiety symptoms to return?

The return of anxiety symptoms is about 23.5% over a 2 year period. However, anxiety disorders are a relatively chronic illness making it hard to come up with a definite rate. Additionally, even if the return of symptoms are not to the full level of disorder, reoccuring low level symptoms are very common.

Can anxiety lead to other illnesses?

Yes, it definitely can. Untreated anxiety can increase the risk in developing depression, substance abuse, suicide, self-harm, heart attacks, weight gain, a decreased immune function, worsened cholesterol, and insomnia, just to name a few.

How can I help someone I know who may be dealing with anxiety?

People with anxiety tend to benefit from talking through it; therefore, it can help to just listen and show your support. However, it's also important to tell a trusted adult if they seem to need a larger sense of support.

Academic stress

What is a healthy reaction to stress?

As long as the stress is allowing you to still get things done, continue to complete tasks, and stay productive.

Can stress lead to other illnesses?

Yes, prolonged stress definitely can. It can create a higher risk for depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc. However, short bursts of stress tend to not affect us as much.

Why is it important to keep stress at a healthy level?

So that it doesn't become overwhelming and prolonged, which can affect functioning in everyday life.

Why are students so stressed out nowadays?

Students are expected to complete more and more types of advanced study with less breaks now. In order to keep up with educational purposes, the intensity of subjects has increased causing the amount of information students have to absorb to be higher than ever, and some students will cope better with this than others.