10 Signs of Depression Relapse and How to Prevent Them


10 Signs of Depression Relapse and How to Prevent Them

Depression, a common but serious mood disorder listed among prevalent mental disorders, affects millions across the globe. Despite successful treatment phases, many find themselves grappling with depression coming back, facing a relapse that can feel as daunting as the initial diagnosis. While treatments for depressive disorder offer relief from depressive symptoms or symptoms of depression, the specter of depression relapse looms large for those who have battled depressive episodes before.

Research indicates that over half of the individuals who experience their first major depressive episode will face subsequent episodes, with a significant number relapsing within two years post-recovery. This statistic highlights the critical nature of ongoing vigilance and support for those who have navigated through major depression.

The recurrence of depression is not merely a setback; it is a critical phase in the continuum of care for individuals with a history of depression. This blog aims to shed light on the signs of depressive relapse and offers guidance on prevention strategies, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive depression treatments and a proactive stance on mental health maintenance.

What Is Depression Relapse?

Depression relapse refers to the return of depressive symptoms after a period of improvement, leading many to ask, “Why does my depression keep coming back?” Understanding the triggers and maintaining a proactive management plan is essential for those navigating the complexities of depressive disorders.

The American Psychiatric Association has identified a stark reality: after overcoming a first major depressive episode, individuals face at least a 60% lifetime risk of experiencing another episode. This underscores the long-term nature of managing depression and the importance of developing a comprehensive, sustained treatment plan.

Why Relapses Occur?

Depression relapse refers to the return of symptoms associated with major depression after a person has experienced a period of improvement or full recovery from a previous episode of depression. Relapses can be triggered by various factors, including stress, significant life changes, or prematurely ending treatment. Risk factors for a relapse include a history of multiple episodes of depression, severe depression, and incomplete recovery from the last episode. Understanding why relapses occur is crucial for both healthcare professionals and patients to develop effective prevention strategies.

10 Signs of Depression Relapse

10 Signs of Depression Relapse

1. Increased feelings of sadness

The resurgence of persistent and profound sadness without an apparent cause is a hallmark of a subsequent episode of depression, signaling an elevated risk for a depressive relapse.

2. Loss of interest in activities

A notable disinterest in previously enjoyable activities is a classic sign of clinical depression, marking a potential return to a depressive state. This symptom is prevalent in both unipolar depression and bipolar disorder, highlighting the complexity of depressive illnesses.

3. Changes in appetite or weight

Depression can significantly affect eating habits, leading to notable weight fluctuations. This physical symptom of depression is a clear indicator of a relapse.

4. Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping

Sleep disturbances, whether insomnia or hypersomnia, are common in depressed patients and can herald a recurrence of depression symptoms.

5. Energy loss or fatigue

A sudden decrease in energy or chronic fatigue, even when well-rested, points to the onset of depression and is a critical sign of a possible relapse.

6. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

Depression often brings with it an overwhelming sense of guilt or worthlessness, which can intensify during a depressive relapse.

7. Difficulty thinking or concentrating

Cognitive symptoms like trouble concentrating, making decisions, or memory problems are indicative of major depression and its relapse.

8. Unexplained physical problems

Affective Disorders, including depression, often manifest through unexplained physical symptoms, signaling a possible relapse.

9. Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

An increase in suicidal ideation or preoccupation with death is a severe and urgent sign of a depressive relapse.

10. Withdrawal from social situations

Withdrawing from social interactions often referred to as Social withdrawal, is a common response among people experiencing a depressive episode, indicating a potential relapse.

How to Prevent Depression Relapse

How to Prevent Depression Relapse

Preventing a depressive relapse involves a multifaceted approach tailored to the individual’s needs, lifestyle, and treatment preferences. It’s not just about avoiding falling back into depression; it’s about building a resilient foundation for long-term mental wellness through a support system and therapy.

Studies have shown that the recurrence rates of depression soar to over 85% within a decade following the initial depressive episode. Furthermore, if the treatment that initially proved effective is discontinued, there is a 50% chance of relapse within just six months of clinical remission. This data emphasizes the necessity of maintaining treatment plans even after symptoms have abated, to reduce the risk of a quick recurrence.

Importance of a support system

Maintaining a robust support system of friends, family, and healthcare professionals is crucial in preventing a depressive relapse. Interpersonal therapy can also play a significant role in managing depression by improving relationships and communication patterns.

Regular therapy or counseling

Ongoing therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrence by helping individuals develop coping strategies and resilience against future depressive episodes.

Medication management

Antidepressant therapy, as part of a broader treatment plan, is often necessary for those with recurrent depression. For some, electroconvulsive therapy may be recommended by health care professionals as part of maintenance therapy, especially when traditional medications are ineffective. Medication management, supervised by health care professionals, ensures the effective use of pharmaceuticals to prevent a subsequent relapse while considering the overall physical health of the individual.

Healthy lifestyle habits

Behavioral activation therapy, which involves engaging in positive activities to improve mood and behavior, alongside a healthy lifestyle can mitigate the risk factors associated with depressive relapse. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep form the cornerstone of this approach.

Mindfulness and stress management techniques

Practices such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy have shown a positive association in preventing relapse, helping individuals to stay present, and reducing stress, which is often a precursor to the onset of depression.

Recommended: Embrace Total Mental Wellness, Avoid Depression Relapse!

Prevention of relapse in patients with depressive disorder requires a multi-faceted approach, integrating clinical interventions like medication and therapy with lifestyle modifications and support systems. By recognizing the early signs of depression and implementing proactive strategies, individuals can maintain mental wellness and mitigate the risk of a subsequent episode.

At Total Mental Wellness, we are committed to guiding you on your journey to lasting mental health and resilience. Our approach goes beyond traditional methods, as we offer holistic mental health strategies tailored to your unique needs. Our experienced and dedicated psychiatrists in Fort Lauderdale will provide you with comprehensive care that addresses all aspects of your well-being.

Whether you’re navigating the challenges of depression relapse or seeking preventative strategies, Total Mental Wellness is here to support you with innovative, holistic approaches to ensure your mental wellness journey is empowering and effective.


Depression relapse is a significant concern for those with a history of depressive episodes. Recognizing the early signs of depression and adopting comprehensive prevention strategies can help manage the risk of recurrence.

Factors for recurrence, such as socio-economic status, marital status, genetic factors, and living in high-stress environments, can influence depression scores and the likelihood of a subsequent recurrence. Research, including individual and primary studies, consistently highlights the increase in risk associated with these factors.

Individuals and their support networks need to work closely with healthcare professionals to tailor a treatment plan that addresses the unique needs and challenges of living with depression, considering all aspects of mental and physical health for a holistic approach to prevention. Individuals and their support networks need to work


Do people go back to normal after depression?

Recovery from depression varies from person to person, with many individuals experiencing significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life. However, ongoing management and awareness of the risk of relapse are crucial for maintaining mental health.

How often do people with depression relapse?

Studies, including systematic reviews and meta-analyses, suggest that over half of individuals who have experienced an episode of major depression are at risk for future episodes, especially without continuous treatment or support.

Is depression permanent damage?

While depression can have lasting effects on the brain and body, it does not constitute permanent damage. Effective treatments, including psychotherapy and medication, can help most people recover and manage symptoms for a fulfilling life.