The National Mental Health Information Center at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists numerous triggers. Here are five:
- Interpersonal friction
- Feeling overwhelmed or having too much to do
- Being judged or criticized
- Ending a relationship
- Physical illness
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Delay decisions during relapse
The temptation to stop treatment on your own is another trigger, one that can lead to a downward spiral. Mary, 45, of Western Massachusetts, almost landed in the hospital during a suicidal depressive episode when she decided to go cold turkey. "What happens is I begin to feel great, and I rationalize that less is better when it comes to medication," she says.
If you are in the midst of a relapse, it's critical to realize that your outlook on everything is altered, and it's unlikely that you will be aware of your lack of perspective. "So to the extent possible, important decisions should be delayed," says Richard Raskin, PhD, a licensed psychologist in New York City.
Lisa, 42, a real estate broker in Huntington, N.Y., has been battling depression for years and can now steel herself against relapses. During the past year, she and her husband separated, and though she felt sad, she used the tools she learned in therapy to keep perspective. "I wasn't depressed. I think that's a testament of what talk therapy and medication can do. Ten years ago that would have put me in the grave."
Turning relapse into recovery
Here are some other strategies to try if you think that you are experiencing signs of a relapse.
- Talk to your relatives or friends who form your support network and tell them what's going on.
- Let your doctor know and ask for advice and direction, regarding taking medication, going to the hospital, or seeing a therapist/crisis counselor right away.
- Get someone to stay with you until you feel better, especially if you feel suicidal.
- Take some time off from work or your personal obligations so that you can attend to your health.
Last updated: Apr 30, 2008