The likelihood of recovery from depression, with appropriate professional treatment, is very good. Depending on the type of treatment, most people start noticing an improvement in about two to six weeks.
Although most people recover from an episode of depression, some may experience a relapse within the following year. It is therefore important to learn how to prevent it from occurring again.
Relapse prevention is about monitoring your mood, identifying your early warning signs and their triggers, as well as developing an effective and proactive plan of action to prevent or minimise its effects.
Before a relapse takes place you would typically experience early warning sings and symptoms. These can be experienced in the form of changes in your mood, feelings and behaviours.
Although each person experience their own unique signs and symptoms, many of them are common to most people, including:
- Feeling down or sad;
- Feeling irritated, tense, restless;
- Low self-esteem;
- Loss of motivation, enjoyment and interest in doing things you normally enjoy;
- Low energy;
- Changes in sleep (difficulty sleeping or sleep more than usual);
- Feelings of worthlessness;
- Changes in appetite or weight;
- Poor concentration and memory;
- Overuse of alcohol and/or drugs;
- Withdrawing socially.
Regular self-monitoring of warning signs is key to prevent relapse.
Tips to Prevent a Relapse
There are some things you can do to prevent a relapse or minimise its effects. It is important that you monitor your mood regularly and are aware of your own early warning signs. The sooner you identify them, the quicker you can take action and minimise the chances of a relapse from occurring.
The following can help you prevent a relapse from occurring.
1) Monitoring and rating your mood every day, preferably at the same time, will help you identify patterns and the situations that trigger your low moods.
Keep track of your mood over a week. You can use our ‘Mood Monitoring Worksheet’ available in the Relapse Prevention Toolkit (download available down below). Keep the worksheet handy at all times and take note of your mood throughout the day. After a week you can take it to your GP or psychologist to discuss with them your patters and observations.
2) Becoming aware of your early warning signs and symptoms of depression is another way to help you minimise or prevent a relapse. Identifying the triggers is also important, as well as determining whether they can be avoided or not. If not, a plan of action is to be developed detailing what to do before, during and after the situations that trigger your symptoms.
The ‘Symptoms Monitoring Worksheet’, available in the Relapse Prevention Toolkit, will help you keep track of your warning signs daily. That will allow you to identify your typical symptoms of depression early and help you take appropriate and proactive action once identified.
When your symptoms persist for a few days and start impacting negatively on your daily life, it is time for you to take some action.
3) Developing an action plan is the next step, detailing exactly what you should do when exposed to trigger situations or identified early warning signs. For instance, you can plan a visit to your General Practitioner or Psychologist if you have been feeling down for a few days, or phone a person you trust to talk about how you feel, or ask a friend to check on you if you are not answering the phone or are avoiding social events.
Use the ‘Action Plan’ template available in the Relapse Prevention Toolkit to develop your very own plan. Keep it visible and handy at all times.
By following these tips and getting to know your mood and symptoms better, you can be better prepared for action and take proactive decisions to prevent further relapse and improve your quality of life.