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How to Prevent Relapse and Recurrence of Depression

Preventing Relapse and Recurrence of Depression

Depression is something that tends to return over time even if it is diagnosed initially and has been successfully treated. This fact can prove to be quite discouraging if someone is in the early stage of depression. The fact associated with it can be good news, as relapses/recurrences of depression are common but steps can be taken to minimize the effect and it can even be prevented altogether.

Can Depression Recur

While there are treatments available for depression, it is important to understand that the illness can come back. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 50 percent of people who have had one episode of depression will have another one at some point in their lives. [ Read the article ]

So, relapse and recurrence are common among those with depression, and so, it should not be taken as a single episode and then forgotten. Rather depression is such a kind of a problem that requires you to be vigilant and care needs to be taken.

Why Does Depression Recur

There is scientific evidence that makes us view depression as one of the conditions, which requires care over a lifetime and should not be taken as an episodic illness. This approach will make you focus on staying well throughout your life and not just getting well.

Earlier scientific research took depression as an individual disease episode and they focused on how it can be cured through one or more treatment methods. But now researchers have found depression as an issue that keeps coming back in a patient over time.

However, the researchers are unable to comment on why depression tends to recur and in which patients the recurs are more. However, some recent studies have thrown some light on how frequently depression returns and what can be the measures to prevent it.

All those patients who are diagnosed with depression have a very significant risk that depression will keep coming back over time.

According to studies it has been found that the most common event which makes depression recur is discontinuing treatment. Once the patient starts feeling better after an episode of depression with medication or psychotherapy, they stop the treatment thinking that they are absolutely fine now. As a result, they stop taking medicines, and therapy sessions and even fail to have follow-through self-care programs. Due to this depression returns in some time and studies also show that each subsequent recurrence of depression tends to be worse than the earlier episode.

How to Prevent Relapse and Recurrence of Depression

Depression is a highly recurrent disorder, with episodes of depression recurring alongside periods of remission. Nonetheless, there are steps you can take to prevent a relapse or recurrence of depression:
  • Staying in treatment. One of the most crucial actions you can take to prevent relapse and recurrence of depression is to adhere to your treatment plan. This entails taking medication as prescribed, attending therapy sessions, and making lifestyle changes that support mental health. Sticking to a treatment plan can be challenging, especially when things are going well. Remember that depression is a chronic condition, and maintaining your treatment regimen is vital to preventing symptoms from resurfacing.
  • Avoid self-medicating. Refrain from self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, as this can exacerbate your depression and lead to further issues.
  • Recognize your warning signs. Understanding the warning signs of your depression is crucial. This awareness can help you catch it early and take action if it does start to return. Symptoms may include changes in sleep or appetite, loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from social activities, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and thoughts of suicide. If you notice any of these changes, seek help from a mental health professional.
  • Be mindful of your triggers. If you know what triggers your depression, try to minimize exposure to them. Triggers can vary among individuals but often include stress, hormonal changes, certain medications, and specific health conditions. Identifying what worsens your depression enables you to avoid these triggers or healthily handle them.
  • Take care of yourself. Caring for your physical and mental well-being is essential for preventing depression relapse or recurrence. Ensure you get enough sleep, maintain a healthy diet, and engage in regular exercise. Avoid drugs and alcohol. If you have a history of depression, be proactive about your mental health by scheduling regular check-ups with your mental health professional and monitoring your symptoms.
  • Manage stress. Stress can trigger a relapse or recurrence of depression. Find healthy ways to manage stress in your life, such as through exercise, relaxation techniques, and seeking social support. (Find here → 10 Ways to Cope with Stress)
  • Build a support network. Having a robust support system of family and friends is crucial for preventing depression relapse or recurrence. If you begin to feel depressed again, do not hesitate to seek help.
If you're concerned about a relapse or recurrence of depression, talk to your doctor. They can assist you in creating a plan to manage your condition and maintain your well-being.

As the recurrence of depression is quite a significant factor to be considered, it is required to plan for an early diagnosis and treatment of depression, and with the help of the healthcare team along with the patient and family members, an effective prevention strategy should be developed to prevent relapse of depression.

Research reports say that chances of relapse/recurrence are highest when medication is stopped and it has also been found that there is some significant health risk associated with abrupt discontinuity of antidepressant medication. So, it should be kept in mind that the medication should not be stopped abruptly, even if it is required to stop medication it should be done gradually.

While the benefits of psychotherapy may last for a longer period, it is advised to continue with it to avoid relapse/recurrence even when the depression symptoms subside. Researchers are still not able to tell which treatment is best for recurrent depression, but they suggest that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is quite effective together. Instead of going for a single method of treatment, it is better to opt for a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

So, one of the key methods of preventing relapse and recurrence of depression is to continue with the treatment for a long time – perhaps it should be for the rest of your life, as it is the way to keep a check on depression. Especially for those patients who have faced multiple episodes of depression. So it can be said you should continue with the treatment on good as well as bad days, this will help you to cope with unavoidable circumstances and will also reduce the chance of relapse and recurrence of depression.


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