7 Tips to Prevent Depression Relapse
When you seek treatment for depression, you want all of your symptoms to go away—and stay away. Although depression is treatable, some patients, especially those with more severe cases, suffer an episode of major depression within six months after responding positively to treatment. Seeking prompt treatment for depression reduces your risk of relapse.
One of the risk factors for relapse is the presence of residual symptoms that persist after your depression treatment ends. These symptoms tend to progress into another episode of depression. The best way to prevent a relapse is by ensuring full remission from treatment by continuing to take your full dose of antidepressants for an additional four to seven months after you respond, and then slowly taper off the medication. If you're at especially high risk of relapse, you may need to remain on maintenance treatment longer.
Still, there are steps you can take to prevent depression relapse.
1. Don't stop treatment suddenly. If you're taking antidepressants, don't stop early or abruptly without your physician's guidance.
2. Consider psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help prevent depression relapse.
3. Optimize your lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet of whole foods, avoid sugar, and get regular exercise.
4. Spend time outdoors. Most people are significantly deficient in vitamin D, a critical nutrient the body makes by getting exposure to the sun. Besides the lift you'll get from being out in nature, spending time in the sun will help raise your vitamin D levels.
5. Consume omega-3 fatty acids. Chances are you're not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids, or good fats, in your diet. Taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement can help. Make sure you chose a high-quality fish oil, in which the manufacturer has removed dangerous toxins and impurities. If you want to learn more about omega-3 and mental health, read The Omega Connection by Andrew L. Stoll, MD.
6. Light therapy. You've probably heard about light therapy for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which generally strikes during the winter months when the days are short. Light therapy may also be effective in treating depression year-round as well, and can help prevent relapse. Light therapy raises the levels of serotonin in your brain, which is associated with mood.
7. Be alert for recurring signs of depression. Seeking treatment quickly stops symptoms and prevents them from escalating into another depressive episode.
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Nirenberg, Andrew A. M.D., Petersen, Timothy J., Ph.D., and Alpert, Jonathan E. M.D. "Prevention of Relapse and Recurrence in Depression: The Role of Long-Term Pharmacotherapy and Psychotherapy." Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 64 [suppl 15] (2003): 13-17. Web. http://www.psychiatrist.com/pcc/pccpdf/v05s09/v64s1504.pdf
National Institute of Mental Health. "Depression Relapse Less Likely Among Teens Who Receive CBT After Medication Therapy." Science Update. Web. 5 December 2008.
National Institute of Mental Health. "Depression Patients' Brain Circuitry Makes Them Vulnerable to Relapse." Science Update. Web. 1 August 2008.
National Institute of Mental Health. "Odds of Beating Depression Diminish as Additional Treatment Strategies are Needed." Science Update. Web. 1 November 2006.
Mercola, Joseph, MD. "Treatment Options for Healing Depression." Mercola.com. Web. 11 December 2002. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/12/11/depression-part-ten.aspx
Mercola, Joseph, MD. "Light Therapy Promising for Treating Major Depression." Mercola.com. Web. 26 January 2011. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/01/26/light-therapy-promising-for-treating-major-depression.aspx
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