If you’ve overcome a period of depression you will know how scary it can be when you start feeling blue again. There is always that fear that you will slip back into that black hole but it doesn’t have to be that way.Learn how to spot a depression relapse and prevent a full-blown episode.
Many people who suffer a bout of serious depression do not experience such a severe episode again. In fact, research indicates that 50 percent of people who experience an episode of depression will recover and live a relatively normal life when it comes to their mental health. But half of those who suffer from an intense episode will find that they relapse – sometimes more than once – during their lifetime.
The good news is that if you are able to spot the red flags of a depression relapse, you stand a better chance of preventing a full-blown episode – or at least coping better with your depression when it hits.
What is depression?
We all feel sad and blue every now and then. Things happen in our lives that can get us down – such as the loss of a loved one or being fired from a job. But if that feeling of hopelessness lasts for more than two weeks and starts to affect your everyday activities – you could be suffering from depression.
What are the causes of depression?
There are several factors that can play a role in the diagnosis of depression according to the DSM-5 and these include: genetic factors, traumatic events that trigger negative emotions; or alcohol or drug dependence.
What is a depression relapse?
Once you have experienced an initial episode of depression, there are two ways it can return. The first is referred to as a ‘depression relapse’. This usually happens within two months of stopping treatment for your initial episode.
If you experience a bout of depression several months or years after you have finished treatment, it is referred to as ‘depression recurrence’. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression recurrence is more likely to happen in the first 6 months following treatment.
Research shows that the chances of depression returning are significantly higher if you experience two or more episodes in the first few years which is why it is important you get the best treatment as early as possible.
10 warning signs of depression relapse
- Change in appetite – This may be losing interest in food or overeating.
- Sadness – Feeling hopeless and blue about life.
- Loss of motivation – Feeling less enthusiastic about hobbies that usually bring you pleasure or experiencing a reduced amount of happiness when you are doing your favourite things.
- Tiredness – When tasks take longer and feel more cumbersome to complete.
- Restlessness – Feeling agitated, anxious or like you want to pace the room.
- Change in sleep – Sleeping longer in the mornings or the inability to fall asleep at night.
- Aches and pains – Experiencing headaches, muscle pain or stomach aches for no reason.
- Dwelling on things – Feeling worthless or guilty for events that happened in the past.
- Irritability – Getting annoyed easily.
- Suicidal thoughts – Feeling that life is so hopeless you don’t want to carry on.
What causes a depression relapse or recurrence?
If you are someone who has suffered depression you are more likely to be triggered by a stressful life event than someone who has never experienced mental health issues. There are a range of other factors that can be triggers for depression including:
- Medical conditions such as obesity or diabetes
- Leaving treatment early
- Not receiving the right treatment for your initial episode of depression
- A major life event such as a death, family conflict or marriage breakdown
How to prevent a depression relapse
Commit to treatment – If you have been prescribed antidepressants it is vital that you take the full course of your medication and follow your doctor’s advice. It can be tempting, when you start to feel better, to stop taking your meds but that increases your risk of relapse. If your treatment involves counselling and therapy sessions – make sure you keep going to them until your psychologist advises that you are okay to stop.
Meditation – Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation, practiced a few times each week, can reduce your chance of relapse by up to 50 percent within a year. You don’t have to spend hours crossed-legged on the floor to achieve this. It is all about taking a moment to be completely present each day rather than allowing your mind to dwell in the past or future.
Accept help – Friends and family can provide support when it comes to noticing the warning signs of depression. If you open yourself to their help, you can reduce your chances of falling back into depression.
Have a plan – Always discuss with your therapist the best plan of action when it comes to acting on the warning signs of depression. Consider writing out a plan so that you feel empowered to deal with symptoms if they return.
Coping with a depression relapse
Susan went to her doctor after experiencing many weeks of severe depression. Her doctor prescribed antidepressants which she took for 6 months. After that time, her doctor advised her to slowly take herself off the medication. Within a few weeks she was back to where she started – feeling desperately hopeless about life. Unfortunately, like many mental health issues, depression can be complicated to treat and not all treatments will work for all people.
The following treatments have been recommended by the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
Therapy – Both Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MCBT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) have been proven to reduce the risks of depression relapse. These talk therapies help you work through your depression by changing the way you think and behave.
Exercise – High-intensity exercise releases endorphins which are the body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals. Research by Harvard indicates that even low-intensity exercise is beneficial to fight symptoms due to its ability to improve brain function.
Medication – Studies show that taking antidepressants continuously for 6 or more months can make it less likely for you to fall back into depression.
Getting the most effective treatment – Depression Rehab
If you are someone who has suffered from one or more episodes of serious depression you might benefit from a depression retreat where you can get to the core of your mental health issues.
The Dawn in Thailand offers depression retreat run by a team of Western-trained mental health experts who are highly-experienced in treating both situational and clinical depression – and will ensure you have a strategy in place to cope with stressors when you return home so that you are less likely to relapse.
A muti-faceted treatment approach
We tailor a treatment plan to your needs, combining Western-techniques like MBCT and CBT to address the root causes of your depression; and augment these psychotherapies with Eastern wellness like meditation and yoga plus daily exercise. Also, our onsite medical team is available to monitor and adjust medication.
An alternative for those who are medication-resistant
For those who may have become resistant to medication we offer Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatment or TMS – an FDA approved, non-invasive technology that is proven to treat depression.
The importance of focusing on yourself
At our tranquil riverfront property, surrounded by picturesque rice fields and traditional Thai villages, you are completely removed from your triggers – the people, places and things that contribute to your condition – and immersed in a safe and soothing environment where you can focus wholly on healing. If you are slipping back into depression, please feel free to reach out to us at anytime for a consultation.