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5 Causes of Depression Relapse

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People can easily feel down and out, especially when unexpected life circumstances are thrown their way. However, there are major differences between feeling simply “blue” and having a clinical depressive disorder. According to Johns Hopkins, approximately 9.5% of Americans have a depressive disorder such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia. While depressive disorders are treatable, they cannot be cured. This creates a life-long presence in the lives of those who have it. And even those who obtain the most effective depression treatment can stumble upon several causes of depression relapse. 

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

As briefly mentioned before, there is more than one type of depressive disorder. Across the board, depressive disorders share several of the same signs and symptoms, especially when it comes to chronic mood swings and long periods of depression. But, each depressive disorder has its own characteristics that separate them from one another. 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder, which is usually known simply as “depression”, is the most common type of depressive disorder in the United States. Someone with major depressive disorder is likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Problems concentrating

These are just some of the symptoms associated with major depressive disorder. To be fully diagnosed, an individual must meet specific criteria.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by experiencing episodes of mania and depression. Episodes of mania can include symptoms such as:

  • Inflated ego 
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Little need for sleep
  • Distracted easily
  • Racing thoughts

Episodes of depression in someone with bipolar disorder can present with the following symptoms:

  • Depressed mood nearly all day, most of the days of the week
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Indecisiveness
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide


Cyclothymia is similar to bipolar disorder in a number of ways, including producing both manic and depressive symptoms. Generally speaking, those with cyclothymia often experience much less intense symptoms that can include a variation of the following:

  • Irritability
  • Aggressiveness
  • Poor sexual function
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Excessive self-esteem
  • Increased anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive talking
  • Impulsive behavior

Since each depressive disorder has its own symptoms and intensity, it is easy to see how someone with one of these disorders can find themselves struggling to keep their head above water. It is during these times that some of the most common causes of depression relapse can creep in.

5 Causes of Depression Relapse

Upon hearing the word “relapse”, most people automatically associate it with drug or alcohol addiction. However, those who are experiencing mental health disorders can also have a relapse. This means that one or more factors have caused their symptoms to flare up again and they are not taking appropriate action to effectively address them. It is extremely common for people with depressive disorders to relapse back into an unhealthy state, especially when certain causes of depression relapse rear their ugly heads. 

1. Substance Abuse

Any type of substance abuse, whether it be heavy or occasional, can serve as one of the top causes of depression relapse. That is because consuming drugs or alcohol creates changes in the overall functionality of the brain and the body. For example, the over consumption of wine, even if just for one night, can trigger the body into wanting more sugar-based foods and drinks. Individuals who give in to those cravings can weaken their reserve against their depression because sugary foods and drinks have proven to increase symptoms of this specific disorder. 

2. Stopping Therapy

Effective treatment for depressive disorders is generally a combination of therapy and medication. While types and doses of medication may vary for each individual person (or if any medication is involved at all), therapy is usually something that all who experience these disorders participate in. Through therapy, individuals can learn coping skills to manage their depressive disorders, receive education about the type of depressive disorder they have, and identify their top potential causes of depression relapse. Working in a therapeutic setting keeps individuals focused on their end goals rather than the distractions that can throw their recovery off course. The likelihood of a relapse occurring increases dramatically if someone stops going to therapy.

3. Traumatic Events

A traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, being in an accident, or suffering some form of abuse can be highly distressing. Someone with a depressive disorder is more vulnerable to experiencing effects of a traumatic event than someone who does not have this type of disorder. This makes traumatic events some of the most common causes of depression relapse there are. Trauma can cause people to withdraw from others, stop exercising, start eating poorly, stop sleeping, and so on. The effects of the trauma can become so great that preventing a depression relapse can become highly challenging. 

4. Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes happen to both men and women, but women certainly experience more significant changes over the course of their lives than men do. Women are already more likely to develop a depressive disorder than men, putting them at increased risk for suffering a relapse as a result of one or more hormonal changes. These changes can occur during pregnancy, after pregnancy, before and during a menstrual cycle, and even as a result of taking birth control. Hormonal changes greatly impact moods and may increase the likelihood of a depression relapse.

5. Not Speaking Up 

Many people who are struggling with a depressive disorder do reach out and ask for help from a professional, which is wonderful. However, it often takes time and effort before finding the right combination of medication and therapy that works best to reduce one’s symptoms of depression. If a patient does not speak up to their provider if they feel like their medication or therapy is not working, they increase the risk of relapsing. Advocating for oneself is absolutely vital in order to ensure that the right medication and dose is being taken and the appropriate therapy is being provided. 

Depression Treatment in Los Angeles

If you are grappling with the challenges of a depressive disorder, do not wait any longer to ask for help. Reach out to us at Clear Behavioral Health right now to learn more about how we can help you get back in control of your life. 

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