Can You Prevent Depression?

Do you or a loved one have depression? If so, you might know that treatments can help the condition. But what about ways to prevent it in the first place?

There’s no clear answer. Most experts think it can’t be prevented. Others aren’t sure.

Most of the things that make you more likely to get depression are things you can’t control, including your genes, chemicals in your brain, and your environment. For many people, depression starts after a major life change or trauma. It can also happen if you have another health problem, such as cancer, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease.

You may not be able to totally protect yourself from these things. But you can change how you handle the stress they can cause. If you already have depression, you can stop it from getting worse.

Keep Depression From Coming Back

Though doctors don’t know that it’s possible to prevent depression altogether, you may be able to keep it from coming back if you’ve already had an episode. Some therapists use an approach called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to do that.

MBCT combines cognitive therapy, which changes the way you think, with mindfulness. The goal of mindfulness is to focus on what’s going on in the present. The method aims to help people with depression be aware of their negative thoughts and learn to change them.

Other ideas to prevent depression involve medicine, lifestyle changes, and nutrition. Some studies have found that steps like these can reduce new episodes of depression by 25% or more, but scientists need to do more research on these approaches.

What You Can Do

There’s no sure way to prevent depression. But you can:

  • Find ways to handle stress and improve your self-esteem.
  • Take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise regularly.
  • Reach out to family and friends when times get hard.
  • Get regular medical checkups, and see your provider if you don’t feel right.
  • Get help if you think you’re depressed. If you wait, it could get worse.

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If you do have depression, you can do a few things to keep it from getting worse.

  • Stick with your treatment plan. If you are on medicine, take it as prescribed, whether you feel good or not. Don’t skip therapy sessions. Let your doctor know what is and isn’t working for you.
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. It may seem like these make you feel better. But they can actually make it harder to treat your depression.
  • Try ways to fight stress, like meditation and yoga.
  • Spend time with family and friends. Think about joining a support group. Do things that keep you connected to others.
  • Know yourself. Pay attention to the things that seem to make your symptoms worse. Keep notes and tell your doctor or therapist about it.
  • Don’t make big life decisions on a day when you’re feeling down.
  • Talk to your therapist or doctor about medicine that can stop depression from coming back.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 21, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Goodtherapy.org: “Is Depression a Preventable Condition?”

National Institute of Mental Health: “Depression: What You Need to Know.”

University of Michigan Depression Center: “Preventing Depression.”

American Psychiatric Association, “Preventing Recurrence of Depression with Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy.”

JAMA: “Preventing Depression: A Global Priority.”

Mayo Clinic: “Depression (major depressive disorder),” “Self-management,” “Lifestyle and home remedies.”

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