You may have experienced this scenario before: You’re feeling great! In fact, so great, that you stop your medications and therapy. However, after a while, you begin to experience your depression symptoms again. Research shows that over half of the people who discontinue their treatments for depression will relapse within a few months. Keep reading to find out more about depression relapses.

What is Depression Relapse?

Depression relapse is when someone becomes depressed again after feeling better. A relapse is defined as depression symptoms resurfacing after four months without an episode. You may experience the same symptoms you had during an initial episode of depression, or you might have different symptoms.

But why does depression reoccur? In many cases, it can be for no apparent reason. Other cases can involve a difficult life event, which acts as a trigger that causes relapse. Some examples are:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Hormonal changes, such as during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause
  • Stressful life events, such as job change or financial struggles
  • Divorce
  • Change in family structure, such as a newly empty nest
  • Having other medical conditions that cause stress

In addition, discontinuing treatment for depression can also result in a relapse. If you have been prescribed antidepressant medication, talk with your doctor before stopping your medication or if you are experiencing unwanted side effects.

Signs of A Depression Relapse

Since a relapse means a return of feeling depression, depression relapse symptoms are the same as those associated with major depressive disorder. However, these can vary among episodes.

Common symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Trouble falling asleep or sleeping more or less than usual
  • Persistent mood of unhappiness for no known reason
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Lack of exercise
  • Feelings of anger or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Ruminating over negative events
  • Low energy, fatigue, or exhaustion
  • Restlessness or anxiety
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or self-loathing
  • Feeling physically uncomfortable for no known reason

Coping with Depression Relapse

Seeking medical treatment as soon as possible is the best way to cope with a relapse. This can also mean modifying your current treatment plan. Your doctor may recommend a combination of medications along with therapy.

However, medication treatments take time to become effective. Adequate self-care can help alleviate symptoms. Eat a nutritious diet, get enough sleep, spend time with friends and family, and exercise daily.

Preventing Depression Relapse

A depression relapse prevention plan can help reduce the risk of recurrence, and you may develop a plan with your therapist. This plan may include a list of relapse triggers, signs of relapse, and tools for coping with stressors. It may also include beneficial activities such as regular exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends.

Scheduling regular checkups is especially important to include in a depression relapse prevention plan. This can include monthly check-ins with a therapist or continuing a medication under the supervision of a doctor. Most antidepressants are effective for improving and preventing depression symptoms from reoccurring.

Boston Clinical Trials is conducting clinical trials for depression, including relapses of depression.

Sign up for a clinical trial below!