Like many other common medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, depression is highly treatable, but there is also a risk that the symptoms will return. According to Dr. William Marchand, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine, the risk of recurrence, or a relapse after a full remission, for a person who has had one episode is 50%. For a person who has had two episodes, the risk is about 70%. For someone with three episodes or more, the risk rises to around 90%. This is why having a prevention plan in place is critical. “Depression is often a chronic illness, but with a good prevention plan in place, it is often possible to prevent recurrences entirely or limit the severity and duration if depression does return.” A prevention plan must include maintenance treatment, which is “treatment that is continued after symptoms are in remission to prevent recurrence.” It is also important to understand what might be triggering a possible relapse, and how you can prevent or minimize the influence of those triggers. Here are three common triggers that could cause a relapse:
- Not Following Treatment: “The biggest issue regarding relapse has to do with children and adults not following through on their treatment plan,” said Deborah Serani, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist. This can include anything from skipping therapy sessions to missing doses of your medications to ending your therapy too soon.
- Ruminating: Those who suffer from depression tend to dwell on their supposed flaws and failures. These negative self-referential ruminations play a major role in relapse.
- Not Knowing Your Personal Vulnerabilities: Since we are all unique, triggers can be specific to each individual’s situation. To identify your triggers, learn how to recognize the who, what, whys and whens of your emotional and physical life,” Serani said.
Sometimes it is not possible to prevent yourself from a relapse. However, by knowing the early signs and getting treatment right away, you can prevent a full blown episode or lessen its severity and length.