Relapse prevention is a critical part of recovery from depression. Surviving an episode of depression is not like having the measles—one does not develop an immunity to the disease. Although the symptoms of depression can be controlled, the underlying predisposition does not go away. While it is true that some individuals experience just one major depressive episode in a lifetime, half of those who have been severely depressed are at risk to become depressed again.
What can a person do to decrease the likelihood of having another depressive episode? The first step is realize that recovering from depression is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. While utilizing the tools of the better recovery mood program can help our brains and nervous systems to stay well, there are times when powerful external stressors or internal biochemical anomalies will disrupt the brain’s delicate balance. In such instances, we need a plan for identifying and responding to symptoms before they get out of hand and lead to another breakdown. This process of nipping depression in the bud is known as “relapse prevention.”
Relapse prevention can be compared to steps in fighting off a cold. When you first feel yourself coming down with a cold or flu, the proper response is to drink tea, take vitamin C and rest. If, however, you ignore these early warning signs and continue with your busy life, the cold might enter your lungs and turn into bronchitis. If you continue to ignore your body’s cry for help, the infection may penetrate deeper into the lungs and become pneumonia. If the case is serious enough, you’ll have to be hospitalized.
In a similar manner depression can easily “sneak up on you” if you are not paying attention. Fortunately, having a depressive breakdown does not occur overnight. Clinical depression is a gradual process of falling out of recovery, ultimately leading to the inability to function. By regularly monitoring the state of your body, mind and spirit, it is possible to identify relapse symptoms early on and take action to prevent a return to major depression. In addition, you may want to ask a good friend or family member to monitor your moods, since an objective person may be able to spot the return of symptoms from the outside before you can. Read more...