Signs of depression relapse may include irritability, fatigue, and sleep changes, among others. Some of the tips to help you cope include therapy, taking medication, and stress-relieving activities.

Depression relapse is when you experience symptoms of depression after a period of remission.

A 2020 review suggests that up to 60% of people living with depression will experience at least one relapse episode in their life. According to a 2017 study in England, this is likely to occur within 6 months after treatment.

Although treatment can help resolve symptoms of depression, it doesn’t necessarily mean a “cure.”

Keep reading to learn more about symptoms, triggers, and coping mechanisms for depression relapse.

Symptoms of a depression relapse may sometimes differ from the symptoms you experienced during a previous episode.

Identifying and understanding the different warning signs can help you get treatment as early as possible.

Some symptoms of a depression relapse may include:

  • irritability
  • loss of interest in your hobbies
  • lack of motivation to do things
  • speaking more slowly
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sleep changes, such as difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
  • social withdrawal, such as avoiding situations
  • feeling down, teary, or hopeless
  • feeling worthless or “unworthy”
  • weight changes, such as weight loss or weight gain
  • fatigue

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A depression relapse may be caused by a combination of factors, such as unexpected triggers or a series of events.

These periods may feel tough if you’re receiving treatment because it might make you feel like a setback.

However, being aware of specific triggers and staying in touch with family and friends can help you manage them.

Some triggers of depression relapse include:

  • Stressful life events: These may include the death of a loved one, company layoff, breaking up with a partner, and an upcoming exam, among many others.
  • Illness: This may range from being sick for a short period of time to living with a chronic illness, such as cancer. Fatigue and a reduced sex drive can make you feel isolated.
  • Hormonal changes: Puberty, menopause, and pregnancy may alter your hormone levels. This may cause mood swings and physical symptoms that could lead to depression.
  • Family structure: You may experience depression due to changes in your family, such as divorce, having a child move away, and moving away from home.
  • Alcohol and drugs: Although you may turn to alcohol or drugs as a coping strategy, these can make your symptoms of depression worse.

Talk with a healthcare professional if you think a trigger may cause a depression relapse. A treatment plan could include coping mechanisms to help you identify and face certain triggers.

A healthcare professional can help you develop a treatment plan for depression relapse. This may include a combination of psychotherapies and medications.


Psychotherapy is a type of therapy in which you speak with a licensed mental health professional. They can help you identify various factors that are contributing to your depression relapse, including behaviors, triggers, and thought patterns.

The two most common psychotherapies to help treat depressive symptoms are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).

Other types of psychotherapy that may help also include:

  • group therapy (GT)
  • supportive therapy (ST)
  • psychoeducational intervention (PEI)
  • marital and family therapy (MFT)


A healthcare professional may also prescribe medication to help you manage your depression relapse. The most widely prescribed medications for depressive symptoms include:

Other types of antidepressants, like monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclics, may also help you. However, these aren’t commonly used now for treatment of depression due to the higher risk of side effects.

It’s recommended (and often required) to schedule a follow-up with the prescribing professional within 2 weeks of starting a new antidepressant. This is to see:

  • whether the medication is working
  • monitor any side effects, if any
  • determine if the side effects are acceptable
  • if transitioning to another medication may be best

Then, it’s recommended to check in every 6 months to help prevent depression relapse.

A doctor may recommend a different treatment method if you’re maintaining your treatment plan when you experience a depression relapse. They may change your medication, increase your current medication dose, or provide new coping strategies during therapy.

Several strategies and lifestyle changes may help you cope with mild to moderate depressive symptoms, including:

  • reaching out to friends and family
  • writing down your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions in a journal to help you identify any changes
  • reminding yourself that you’re strong and that you overcame depression before, so you can do it again
  • focusing on the positive
  • creating a routine
  • getting 7 hours of sleep every night
  • getting plenty of exercise
  • eating a well-balanced diet

Sticking to your treatment plan is the best way to prevent depression relapses. This may include taking prescribed medications, participating in therapy, or making lifestyle changes.

It’s important to be aware of some factors that may increase your likelihood of a depression relapse occurring.

For example, it may be tougher to stay in remission if personal, environmental, or social elements that were present during your depression are still there. Other factors may include:

  • whether you’ve had depression relapses in the last 2 years
  • how many relapse episodes you’ve had in the past
  • how severe your depression was
  • whether you have other physical or mental conditions

If you want to stop taking your medication, it’s vital that you speak with a doctor before doing so. Quitting a medication “cold turkey” may produce severe reactions and should always be done under the guidance of a professional. They can guide you on how to gradually reduce your dose to prevent negative side effects.

Depression relapse occurs when you experience symptoms of depression after a period of remission. It may happen due to various factors, such as external triggers.

The best way to prevent a depression relapse is to stick to your treatment plan.

If you’re beginning to feel symptoms of depression, speak with a healthcare professional as soon as possible. They’ll be able to help adjust your treatment plan and provide coping mechanisms.