You’ve been through a depressive episode and gotten through to the other side. You’re enjoying life, your appetite is back to normal, you have energy again, and you’re sleeping well.
Then you hit a relapse, and all the progress you made feels like it’s gone.
It may be scary, but there’s no need to despair! Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a mental health condition that’s prone to relapse or recurrence. After one depressive episode, your risk of relapse is 50%. After two episodes, it’s 70%. After this point, your episodes of depression can happen with 90% certainty.
Several stressful life events are common triggers for relapse. One of the main causes is loss, particularly of a job or a relationship. You might relapse if you don’t follow your treatment plan, perhaps discontinuing medication without input from your doctor.
With the right plan in place and tools in your toolbox, you can beat your relapse and help prevent your depression from coming back.
The Value of Talk Therapy
A depressive episode is generally triggered by difficult life circumstances, which makes stress management crucial. If you’ve tried talk therapy to handle your depression, now is the time to stick to your appointments and talk about everything that’s burdening you.
If you’ve never tried talk therapy, consider adding it to your toolbox. There are different types, but cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the “gold standard.” It trains you to reframe your thoughts and beliefs to better manage moments of sadness. This keeps you from spiraling into new episodes of depression. Some studies even show that CBT is just as effective as antidepressants and better at preventing new episodes of depression.
A new version of CBT called mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) has become popular. It combines CBT with mindfulness meditation skills, so you can accept—even embrace—sad thoughts and feelings. When you view these thoughts and feelings without judgment, they pass without you ruminating on them and fueling depression. In one study, it was shown to be incredibly effective at preventing relapses in patients who have experienced multiple depressive episodes. It’s also effective in combination with medication.
Interpersonal therapy is another option that can help you reframe your relationship and communication skills. You create more meaningful bonds with friends and family, reducing your risk of depression over the long-term.
A Healthy Lifestyle
A positive routine of healthy eating and regular activity are very important for preventing depression relapse. When you’re in an episode, your symptoms can be so overwhelming that it feels impossible to maintain your healthy routine. That makes it especially important to take these steps when you have the energy and motivation to follow through.
Studies show that exercise is an effective depression treatment, so it’s key for anyone with an anxiety disorder or a depressive disorder. A good workout can help release those “feel-good” endorphins in your brain.
If you aren’t in the habit of exercising, start small with the goal of ramping up your activity level. A brisk walk is better than nothing, but 30 minutes of serious sweating can be even better! With time, you’ll discover what works best for you, whether it’s:
- Lifting weights
- A class at a gym
- A peaceful yoga routine with deep breathing (which studies also say is great for depression)
An exercise routine can help with weight loss, which has the benefit of improved health and a boost in confidence.
Meditation is also tremendous for relapse prevention. It can be hard to find 10 minutes every day to meditate, but think about how much time you spend on social media and watching TV. If you take a 10-minute pause from those activities each day, you may find you have plenty of time to make a wonderful impact on your mental health!
In the age of social media, it can be hard to recognize the need for social interaction and support. It can feel like you’re around people and their opinions all the time! But social media is actually pretty isolating, and so is depression.
Make a point to see loved ones and friends. This can also be extremely difficult to do when you’re in a depressive episode, so make it part of your routine when you’re feeling better. Spending time with loved ones can give you a sense of belonging, which combats many depressive symptoms like feelings of worthlessness.
Preventing episodes of depression does not need to be an either/or situation. Talk therapy is helpful, and for many people, antidepressants can also be used to reduce the risk of relapse or recurrence. Psychiatrists often prescribe SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) to treat depression and anxiety. Your doctor may recommend continued treatment even when you feel better to keep your depression from returning.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Antidepressants have been standard treatment for decades, but technology has improved, and now there’s a wider range of treatment options. Transcranial magnetic stimulation works by stimulating a part of the brain that becomes inactive when you have depression. It’s remarkably effective, safe, and provided under the care of a psychiatrist.
Many TMS patients discover that after their initial round of treatment, “booster” TMS treatments can help prevent depressive relapses.
If TMS sounds right for you, HPR Treatment Centers is a national provider with locations across the country. They specialize in getting insurance approval set up quickly, so you can start treatment right away. Learn more at hprtc.com, or give them a call at 877-565-3753.