In this guide we are going to discuss how we can manage depression that keeps coming back.
We will also explore possible reasons why depression is recurring and what are some signs you need to keep on the lookout for when it comes to recurrent depression.
What do I do if my depression keeps coming back?
Some things that you can apply yourself to if your depression or depressive episodes tend to keep recurring or coming back include:
- Getting the right treatment
- Consider medication if therapy is not working
- Get professional support
- Be consistent with treatment
- Develop awareness of triggers
- Be proactive in your management
Depression or Major Depressive disorder is a mood disorder that can be debilitating to an extensive degree. WHO estimated that approximately 280 million people in the world have depression and it is most common in young adults between the ages of 18-25.
The symptoms of the disorder leave a person unable to meet the demands of their daily life and cause extensive dysfunction in the social and occupational areas of their lives.
The symptoms of depression include low moods, low energy, inability to focus, hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal ideation. Changes in diet and sleep patterns are also symptoms of the disorder.
There are many factors that cause depression. It could be because of genetic disposition such as having mental illness in the family, neurobiological factors, trauma, negative life experiences, and grief.
Each individual who struggles with depression has experiences that are unique to them and while treatment strategies can work for one person, it might not work for another.
Estimated recurrence of depression
Depression is a mental illness that has high recurrence rates- meaning that it keeps coming back.
The American Psychological Association states that depression is highly recurrent with at least 50% of diagnosed individuals who recover from depression will have another episode that follows during their lifetime.
It has also been estimated that the more episodes occur, the more likely the disorder comes back, around 80% of people who have had two episodes will likely have their depression related symptoms come back.
If you have had depressive episodes that have been coming back, understand that it is a common problem that affects a large portion of the population that has the disorder.
Signs that your depression is coming back
Individuals who find that their depression is coming back are often able to identify and recognise the subtle changes in their lives which resemble their old symptoms.
However it is also possible that the symptoms you experience in your relapse may be entirely different which is why it is important that you pay attention to the full spectrum of depression related symptoms.
Typical symptoms of depression include:
- Low mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Brain fog
- Sleep changes
- Social withdrawal
- Feeling worthless
- Weight gain or loss
- Aches and pains
- Suicidal ideation/thoughts
If you find any of these symptoms affecting your ability to manage your daily life, it may be time for you to expect a possible recurrence. Seeking professional help could be one step in the right direction.
Reasons why depression reoccurs
A meta analysis of various studies have found that there are many factors that increase the recurrence of depression.
- Age of onset:
Research has found that earlier onset of your first depressive episode could make it likely that your depression may keep coming back
- Prior episodes of depression:
The more severe your first episode of depression has been, the more likely you will struggle with depression again.
If you have had a prior episode of depression, it is likely that it will occur. The more episodes you have had the more likely the next one will be.
- Comorbidity with other disorders:
Various studies have also confirmed that struggling with other mental disorders increases the likelihood of relapse and recurrence of depression especially disorders such as Substance use disorder and anxiety.
- Family history
If your family has a history of mental disorders, especially depression, it makes you genetically vulnerable to develop the disorder and its recurrence.
- Psychological scars
Scare theories posit that there are certain psychological scars that are left behind during depressive episodes that make it more likely that you will become depressed again.
These “scars’ ‘ often affect a person’s cognition especially in the adolescent population which affects their ability to have adaptive cognitive patterns of thinking.
- Psychosocial factors
Other factors that make recurrence likely include lack of support- professional or personal support, traumatic life experiences after the first episode, Stressful life patterns that stops a person from having a healthy lifestyle such as a stressful job.
- Biological changes
Hormonal changes can be another factor that leads to recurrence of the disorder, specifically changes in hormones at different stages of your life such as pregnancy, menopause, puberty.
Managing depression that keeps coming back
It can be distressing to realise that your depression might be coming back. The experience of depression can be traumatic in itself and to have it reoccur can make you panic and stress.
While the disorder is debilitating, remind yourself of the fact that you have experienced this once before and that you have managed to come out on the other side.
It might have been a hard fought battle but you did it, you survived and this time too, you can.
Here are some things that you can do to help yourself as you prepare to deal with your depression that keeps coming back
Get the right treatment
Depression can have high comorbidity with various other disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and premenstrual dysmorphic disorder.
Getting the right diagnosis can be one of the first steps you can take in dealing with this disorder in a more effective way. Talk to a medical professional such as a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist who specialises in depression.
Having the symptoms checked and handled by a specialist can help you get the right treatment- medication or strategies for therapy- which can do so much more good than getting the wrong treatment.
One of the factors that causes depression includes the neurochemistry in your brain, often it is a result of a chemical imbalance. Because it involves your biology, there is no amount of therapy that can help you control your symptoms.
Talk to your GP physician who can help you get started on medication which will help your brain regulate these chemicals.
Psychiatrists are also medical doctors, they can determine whether or not you need medication and determine which medication and which dosage are best suited to help you.
Your depressive episodes can also be comorbid with other mental disorders, which make it all the more important for you to get the right medication for your disorder.
Get professional support
When we talk about professional support we are talking about getting professional help to manage your symptoms. Research finds that a combination of medication and therapy is the most effective way to deal with depression.
Take time to seek out a therapist who is the right fit for you. Oftentimes, CBT has been found to be most effective for depression and anxiety. However, that may not mean that CBT is the right fit for you.
There are many schools of thought when it comes to therapy, so taking the time to research professionals around you and testing them out can be helpful.
Be mindful of resistance while also making sure that you are comfortable with the therapist before considering long term treatment with them.
Be consistent with your treatment
One of the main reasons why depression recurs is due to less than 100% compliance with psychotherapy and the prescribed medical treatment.
It is important that you do not miss any of your doses nor your sessions. Depression is the same as any other medical diagnosis, if you do not comply with the medication, there will be serious consequences.
Putting yourself and your health comes first and taking the medication that has been prescribed and the treatment plan discussed with your therapist also fall in line with self-care.
If you are struggling with resistance in therapy, speak about your resistance with your therapist. It is a common challenge that people struggle with in therapeutic settings.
If you are worried about the medication’s side effects, talk to your doctor about the problems you might be facing because of the medication. There is always an alternative mode of treatment for you.
Develop awareness of triggers
While we have discussed various factors that can trigger another episode, you need to pay attention to various patterns of mood fluctuations and thought patterns which can cause your symptoms to aggravate.
These triggers can be dealt with in therapy and with therapeutic strategies however there may be certain triggers that you cannot control such as:
- Hormonal Changes
For women, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause cause massive hormonal changes that have been linked to depression. Keeping track of your mood patterns and how they coincide with these changes can be a helpful input toyou treatment.
- Seasonal Depression
Seasonal changes are also a common trigger of depressive symptoms. The most problematic time of year is typically late fall or winter. While you cannot change the weather or move across the world to seek warmer climates, you can prepare yourself and develop strategies with your therapist on how to handle these changes.
Be proactive in your management
If you have been depressed once, you know you don’t want to go through that again.
Your depression will make you want to do nothing at all, it might even stop you from complying with treatment strategies.
Be mindful of these aversions and resistance and take effort to comply with treatment 100 percent. Take active effort to seek out self care methods including seeking support from friends and family.
You can engage in exercise and meditation and other activities that have been proven to help improve well-being.
In this guide we discussed the major causes of depression relapse and some of the signs that could signal a recurrence. We also took a closer look at what you can do to manage depression that keeps coming back.
Frequently asked questions related to “My depression keeps coming back”
What causes recurrent major depression?
While the causes of recurrent depression have been debated, some risk factors include a genetic disposition, trauma, grief, stress, and unwanted changes.
How many times can you get depression?
People usually deal with depression more than once in their lifetime. For many people, it can become a chronic illness, with several relapses. On average, depression will have four to five episodes during a person’s lifetime.
What does recurrent mean in depression?
Recurrence in depression refers to the tendency of a person to suffer multiple episodes of depressed mood or symptoms of depression.
Is long term depression curable?
Depression can be treated and managed. Depression cannot be “cured.” Instead, remission is the goal. A person who has been successfully treated and is considered in remission must be asymptomatic for at least 8 months.
What is the risk of recurrent depression?
Many patients are at risk of the recurrence of depressive symptoms, with 60% lifetime risk of recurrence after the first major depressive episode.
The more a person experiences recurring episodes, the likelihood for another episode to occur increases.