Preventing a Relapse of Depression: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A relapse of depression means your symptoms have come back after you have gotten better. This illness often comes and goes during a lifetime. But there are many things you can do to keep it from coming back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What do you need to know?

Know your risk of relapse

Talk to your doctor to find out if you are at risk of relapse. Many things can make a person more likely to relapse into depression. These include having a family member with depression, dealing with serious problems in a relationship or a job, having a serious medical condition, or an alcohol or substance use problem.

It is important to know your risk and to recognize warning signs of relapse. Once you know these things, you will be better able to keep it from happening to you.

Know the warning signs of relapse

The two most common signs of relapse are:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless.
  • Losing interest in your daily activities.

You may have other symptoms, such as:

  • You lose or gain weight.
  • You sleep too much or not enough.
  • You feel restless and unable to sit still.
  • You feel unable to move.
  • You feel tired all the time.
  • You feel unworthy or guilty without an obvious reason.
  • You have problems concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.
  • You think often about death or suicide.
  • You feel angry or have panic attacks.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicine as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems with your medicine. Many people take their medicines for at least 6 months after they have recovered. This often helps keep symptoms from coming back. However, if your depression keeps coming back, you may have to take medicine for the rest of your life.
  • Continue counselling even after you have stopped taking medicine.
  • Eat healthy foods. Include fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains in your diet each day.
  • Get at least 2½ hours of exercise a week. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports.
  • See your doctor right away if you have new symptoms or feel that your depression is coming back.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Try for 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • Keep the number for your nurse call line or your provincial suicide prevention hotline on or near your phone. If you or someone you know talks about suicide or feeling hopeless, get help right away.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are thinking about suicide or are threatening suicide.
  • You feel you cannot stop from hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You hear or see things that aren't real.
  • You think or speak in a bizarre way that is not like your usual behaviour.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are drinking a lot of alcohol or using illegal drugs.
  • You are talking or writing about death.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You find it hard or it's getting harder to deal with school, a job, family, or friends.
  • You think your treatment is not helping or you are not getting better.
  • Your symptoms get worse or you get new symptoms.
  • You have any problems with your antidepressant medicines, such as side effects, or you are thinking about stopping your medicine.
  • You are having manic behaviour, such as having very high energy, needing less sleep than normal, or showing risky behaviour such as spending money you don't have or abusing others verbally or physically.

Where can you learn more?

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Current as of: December 7, 2017