Depression Relapse: What Can Trigger It And How To Prevent It

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Depression is a debilitating disorder that can cause disinterest in activities, changes in sleep, and even suicidal thoughts. Experiencing more than one episode of depression is common, but there are ways to help prevent it.

Prevent Depression Relapse

A depression relapse can be a disappointing and frustrating experience.

However, there are things you can do to decrease your chances of a relapse of depression. If you are still recovering from your first episode, the time to start decreasing the risk of a relapse is now.

What Triggers Depression Relapse?

Experiencing one episode of major depressive disorder gives you a 60% chance of experiencing another episode. The risk continues to climb with each recurrence.

Knowing and understanding what triggers depression can help you avoid experiencing another episode.

Not Fully Recovering From The First Episode

One of the best things you can do to prevent a major depression relapse is to make sure you have completed treatment of the first episode.

What seems like a relapse might actually be a continuation of your first episode. It is important to regularly meet with your doctor and continue therapy until advised otherwise.

Major Life Events

Life events that are known to be particularly stressful can be causes of depression.

These life events may include:

  • losing your job
  • the death of a friend
  • financial pressure because of medical bills
  • experiencing chronic health conditions
  • experiencing other mental health conditions
  • damage to your home through fire or water damage

Changes In Family Life

Life changes regarding family members rank high among stressful life situations and can be another trigger.

Changes in family life can include:

  • divorce
  • kids leaving home
  • death of a family member
  • taking care of family members such as parents or grandparents

Poor Sleep

Sleep is very important to your physical and mental health. Sleep disturbances can be a warning sign of an impending depression relapse.

Poor sleep can include:

  • loss of sleep
  • difficulty going to sleep
  • difficulty staying asleep
  • not sleeping

Negative Focus On Yourself

Negative thoughts or a negative focus on yourself can put you at risk of depression relapse. Negative self-talk has been described as a tape playing in your mind of all the things you dislike about yourself.

Negative self-focus can include:

  • feelings of worthlessness
  • poor self-esteem
  • ruminating on past mistakes

Seasonal Changes

Seasonal changes can be a depression trigger for people, putting them at risk of relapse. When the season changes from fall to winter especially, some people experience a dip in their mood.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the name for this experience. SAD is thought to be predominant in winter due to the less natural light available.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can also be a trigger for a depressive episode.

Hormonal changes can include:

  • menopause
  • puberty
  • pregnancy

Signs Of Depression Relapse

If you are concerned that you may be experiencing a depression relapse, here are some warning signs to watch out for.

Signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • lack of personal healthcare or hygiene
  • loss of interest in activities that you once liked
  • beginning or increasing substance use
  • loss of well-being
  • depressed mood
  • weight gain
  • difficulty concentrating

If this matches your experience, contact your healthcare provider for medical advice so that you can get the care you need.

How To Prevent Relapse Of Depression

While it is not always possible, there are things you can do that will help you prevent depression relapse.

None of these are guaranteed to keep you from experiencing depression again, but they will go a long way toward helping you maintain wellness.

Complete Treatment Of The Previous Episode

If you are currently in treatment for depression, be sure to continue with the treatment plan devised by your doctor and other members of your care team.

Completing your treatment plan may include:

  • taking the antidepressant or other medication that is prescribed to you until your doctor says you can stop
  • continuing to practice coping mechanisms and other strategies you learned in therapy
  • having regular maintenance visits with healthcare providers

By completing your current depression treatment, you decrease your chances of relapse.

Reduce Stress

Life events like the ones above and others like them are stressful in part because they are often unexpected. Few people anticipate losing a job or coming home to a flooded basement.

But you can anticipate your response to these events by having a game plan ready. For example, if a stressful life event happens, you can immediately reach out to your support system.

There are also everyday stressors, such as noisy neighbors or a domineering coworker, that can add up. Take steps to reduce stress by confronting the situation or managing your response to it.

Maintain A Healthy Diet And Weight

If you are prone to depression, maintaining a good weight through a healthy diet is one form of self-care that will go a long way toward maintaining your mood.

Some studies have shown that having a healthy diet may reduce symptoms of depression.

A healthy diet includes eating regular, well-balanced meals, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding junk food and fast food.

Exercise Regularly

Another way to practice self-care is to get regular exercise.

Exercise releases endorphins, which naturally help you feel better. Whether it is an exercise program at the gym or just getting out for a walk or a run, exercise can go a long way toward preventing depression.

Maintain Good Sleeping Habits

If you are facing the possibility of depression relapse, it is important to maintain healthy sleeping habits.

Healthy sleep habits include:

  • having a bedtime routine
  • not watching TV or engaging in social media right before going to sleep
  • getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night (for adults, more for teenagers)

Manage Chronic Conditions

If you have other chronic mental or physical health conditions, managing them can be a way of avoiding relapse.

Chronic conditions that involve pain, physical ailments, or mental illness can be discouraging at times. Managing them to avoid flare-ups can help you avoid a relapse of depression too.

Reduce Alcohol Use

If you are at risk for depression relapse, consider reducing or eliminating your alcohol intake.

Alcohol lowers serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. One of the key functions of antidepressants is to raise levels of these neurotransmitters to help you feel better.

Find Addiction Treatment

Are you or a loved one facing drug and alcohol use that is harming your mental health? You can find addiction treatment today. Call us to learn about your treatment options.


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