Maintenance Treatment: Preventing More Episodes
After patients have been treated for an acute bout of depression, doctors sometimes place them on maintenance therapy to try to prevent another episode, especially if they're at high risk for a recurrence. Talk to your doctor about whether you need maintenance therapy. For this type of ongoing treatment, which can last one year or longer, you may continue taking an antidepressant, with or without psychotherapy. Ask how long you may need maintenance therapy.
In some cases, patients choose watchful waiting instead of maintenance therapy with antidepressants. In this case, they'll keep an eye out for depression symptoms and restart an antidepressant at the first sign of a recurrence.
How to Help Yourself
While you can't just "shake off" your depression, you can certainly take steps to improve your mood and outlook. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and steer clear of alcohol and illegal drugs, which can worsen depression.
In addition to seeing your doctor immediately, consider these tips from the National Institute of Mental Health:
- Try to be active and exercise.
- Go to a movie, sporting event, or other activity that you once enjoyed.
- Set realistic goals for yourself. Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities, and do only what you can manage without causing stress for yourself.
- Try to spend time with other people. Confide in a trusted friend or relative. Don't isolate yourself, and let others help you.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly "snap out of" your depression. Often, during treatment, your sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood improves.
- Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Negative thoughts are a hallmark of depression, but take heart that positive thinking will replace them as your depression responds to treatment.
- Continue to educate yourself about depression, including any ways that might help you to prevent recurrences.