With proper treatment, people with depression will normally start to recover in 8 to 12 weeks. Their symptoms will disappear and they will start to return to their normal life. Unfortunately, about half of the people who have had one major depressive episode will have a depression recurrence at some point in their life. For some people it could be years between bouts of depression, while others may experience recurrence much more frequently.

Table 1 lists some of the things that increase the risk of a depression recurrence.

Table 1: Risk factors for depression recurrence
  • symptoms don't completely go away with treatment
  • 3 or more lifetime bouts of depression
  • family history of depression
  • drug or alcohol abuse
  • onset of depression was before 25 years of age or after 60 years
  • presence of chronic medical conditions
  • history of early trauma/abuse
  • low self-esteem
  • relationship difficulties

The following are some quick tips that you can use to prevent a relapse of depression.

Work with your doctor to develop the right plan: Most depression treatment plans involve taking care of symptoms and then starting a maintenance treatment for at least 6 months after the symptoms go away. Many people stop treatment early, which places them at higher risk of a relapse. Regular follow-up with your doctor is also recommended.

Learn, watch, and be aware: Learn as much as you can about your condition. Knowing more about depression helps to remove fear and can help you cope with the symptoms. If you start to feel warning signs that your depression is returning, talk to your doctor right away.

Take good care of yourself: Positive lifestyle choices can have a positive effect on your overall health. Regular exercise can have a positive effect on mood. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep can also help to improve mood for many people.

Find time to socialize: Spending too much time alone has been linked to depression and relapses. Take a bit of time each week to socialize with people you like.

Manage stress: Having a high level of stress is linked to a higher risk of depression and other conditions. Finding ways to cope with stress will help to improve the way you feel.