Are There Stages of Depression? - BrainsWay

Are There Stages of Depression?

It is normal for people to feel sad occasionally or have less enthusiasm for tasks that they once loved to do. However, when these feelings persist for an extended period, they may be a symptom of depression.

Depression isn’t a defect of character or something to be ashamed of. It impacts millions of Americans every year and can affect anyone. While social media has helped to break down some of the taboos around the topic, misinformation has also grown, notably conflating “stages of depression” with “stages of grief,” yet these two are not the same.

This blog post aims to provide clarity around depression, why it is conflated with the stages of grief, the symptoms of depression, and various treatment modalities available to those affected. By fostering a deeper understanding of depression, we can empower individuals to seek appropriate help and navigate their journey toward mental well-being.

If you or someone you know needs mental health support now, help is available. Call or text the Suicide & Crisis Hotline at 988 to immediately connect with a mental health professional.

Are There Stages of Depression?

The internet has popularized the view of depression as being something experienced in stages. However, this is not medically accurate. While there are stages of grief, there are not stages of depression.

While people may say that they are depressed when they are sad, grief and depression are not interchangeable terms in mental health contexts. Although grief and depression may share many symptoms and depression is a stage of grief, the two are different mental conditions with different methods of treatment. Thus, research on depression occurring in stages similar to grief has been inconclusive, and discussion around the “five stages of depression” is broadly considered to be misleading – depression is better understood in terms of its severity.

What is Depression?

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a mental health illness characterized by negative thought patterns that influence how one acts and feels. Although it has been highly stigmatized in the past, it is an extremely common illness: it is estimated that one in six people experience depression

More than just a “funk” or a “bad mood,” clinical depression isn’t something that can be snapped out of and can have severe health consequences to those experiencing it, including suicidal ideation. Fortunately, it is also one of the most treatable mental health disorders: nearly 90% of people who receive treatment for depression gain some relief from their symptoms, and healthcare advancements are providing relief for those who previously experienced treatment-resistant depression.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Decreased energy, or feeling sluggish
  • Difficulty with concentration, remembering, or decision-making
  • Outbursts of anger, frustration, or irritability, even with small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, hobbies, and work
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and over-sleeping
  • Reduced or increased appetite
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation
  • Unexplained physical problems without an identified cause

To be diagnosed with depression, some of the above symptoms must occur for the majority of the day for at least two weeks. Depression manifests differently in different people – some people may experience only a few symptoms, while others may experience many.

Treatment Options

There is no cure for depression. However, many treatment methods exist that can alleviate the symptoms of depression and allow those experiencing it to achieve a higher quality of life.


Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can be used to both treat depression and help those experiencing grief by helping a person understand their feelings and equip them to face the challenges in their life.

Combination therapy combining psychotherapy and alternative treatments have been statistically correlated with the best treatment outcomes.


Medication is also a highly effective means of the long-term treatment of depression. Antidepressants influence the brain’s neural activity through a number of different pathways, reducing symptom prevalence and severity, while also stabilizing and elevating the patient’s mood.

While medication can be extremely helpful, it is estimated that over 40% of people experiencing major depression do not respond to medication. In addition, side effects may be undesirable for some patients.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is a medical device treatment that uses electrical currents to set off a series of brief seizures that stimulate the brain and affect its neural functioning. Popular culture has misframed ECT as a painful and traumatic form of therapy – it is considered one of the most effective treatments for major depression.

However, ECT entails a variety of severe side effects that often make it a last resort for depression that hasn’t responded well to alternative forms of treatment. Most notably, ECT can cause short-term memory loss in those who receive the therapy. It also requires anesthesia, making it disruptive to maintain one’s normal lifestyle due to longer recovery periods.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an advanced medical procedure that addresses various mental health and neurological conditions. This innovative technology emits an electromagnetic field capable of reaching specific brain regions associated with the targeted disorder. By modulating neural activity in these areas, TMS promotes a more stable activation pattern, leading to symptom relief and enhancing the patient’s overall well-being.

Typically, TMS treatment involves brief sessions lasting between 10 to 20 minutes, conducted over several weeks. Since it is non-invasive, TMS eliminates the need for anesthesia or prolonged recovery periods. TMS therapy has gained widespread acceptance in mental health clinics and professional practices throughout the United States and globally. Its proven safety and effectiveness have been acknowledged by research institutions and governmental agencies worldwide, ensuring broader accessibility to this transformative treatment option.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (Deep TMS™)

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or Deep TMS, is a unique, noninvasive treatment process developed by BrainsWay that helps alleviate symptoms related to mental health conditions, including depression. During the Deep TMS process, an electromagnetic field is activated by BrainsWay’s patented technology, which is held inside a helmet apparatus fitted over the patient’s head. The helmet safely sends out magnetic pulses that can directly reach deep and broad areas of the brain associated with depression.

The only independent, head-to-head study of TMS technologies, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, determined that Deep TMS plus standard medication was significantly more effective at reducing depression levels among Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) or depression patients compared to traditional TMS plus medication or medication alone.

Navigating Depression with BrainsWay

Through more open conversations around mental health and with more methods of treatment available, depression isn’t something that patients should be ashamed of – it is highly treatable, and advancements from BrainsWay are helping more people treat depression in instances where it was once untreatable.

BrainsWay focuses on developing medical devices that help advance the field of mental healthcare. Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is expanding the treatment of mental health beyond what was thought possible, which has been proven to offer significant results by directly stimulating deeper and broader areas of the brain, effectively treating conditions such as depression, anxious depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and more.

With numerous clinical studies and a growing number of patients and healthcare providers attesting to its success, BrainsWay Deep TMS is boldly advancing the treatment of mental health disorders. Wondering if BrainsWay can help your depression? Find a provider near you to learn about what options are available for you.