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Life is not always easy and sometimes we tend to struggle. Experiencing low mood or depression is not uncommon and can be temporary, but if it returns, it might be a sign of recurrent depression. Find out below how to get help.

What is recurrent depression?

Recurrent depression means that you have one or more recurrent (relapsing) depressions after an initial episode. You often experience difficulty concentrating, memory impairment or increased fatigue and the severity can be mild, moderate or severe. If you are younger and become depressed, there is an increased risk of becoming depressed again, so it is important to seek help. Episodes can also become more severe the more they occur and recurrent depression can be part of bipolar disorder. It is important to get a thorough assessment and the right help if you are feeling unwell.

Why do people get depressed?

Depression is the result of a combination of genetic, biological, psychological and environmental factors. It can vary from person to person so some things may be a factor more than others. Here are some of the most common contributors to its development:

  1. Genetic factors: Certain genes and genetic variations are linked to increased vulnerability to depression.
  2. Biological factors: Imbalances in brain chemicals, particularly serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, can affect mood and contribute to depression. Brain regions such as the amygdala and prefrontal cortex, which regulate emotions and decision-making, may also play a role.
  3. Psychological factors: Personal characteristics and psychological factors, such as negative thinking patterns, low self-esteem and difficulties in coping with stress can increase the risk of depression.
  4. Life events and stress: Traumatic events, losses, life changes or prolonged stress can be triggers for depression.
  5. Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during puberty, pregnancy, or transitional periods such as menopause, can affect mood and increase the risk of depression.
  6. Disease and medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as chronic diseases or neurological disorders, can increase the risk of depression. Some medications may also have depression as a side effect.
  7. Environmental factors: An unfavourable environment, including lack of social support, negative family relationships, or work-related stress, can affect mental health and contribute to depression.

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Symptoms of depression

In recurrent depression, the symptoms are the same as for regular depression but there are breaks between episodes. Here are the symptoms:

  • Sadness and loss of interest in activities
  • Apathy
  • Sleep problems or too much sleep
  • Physical symptoms such as fatigue or pain
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Loss of zest for life

What is the difference between recurrent depression and bipolar disorder?

With depression, you have symptoms that make you passive and make it difficult for you to do things. You can fall into a negative pattern that makes the problems continue. If you have bipolar disorder, you often also have depression, but you also have periods of mania where you have a lot of energy, are excited and active in a way that causes problems. Bipolar disorder is divided into type 1 and type 2, with the latter being a milder form. It is important to get a thorough assessment if you think you may have this problem. It is possible to get help and live a full life again.

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Treatment for recurrent depression

Treatment for recurrent depression can include various forms of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or pharmacological treatment with antidepressant medication. Lifestyle changes, including regular exercise, sleep and social support, may also be part of the treatment plan. It is also common that you may need to take a period of sick leave if you are depressed. The length of the sick leave depends on the severity of the depression. Lavendla’s experienced therapists are ready to help.

We make the difficult easier

Experiencing difficult emotions is common, but sometimes you may need support. It’s an important step in improving your quality of life and therapy can help you deal with different issues. At Lavendla, we have therapists and psychologists who can help you make the difficult easier.

If you or someone you know has thoughts of self-harm, call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk immediately.

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12 frequently asked questions about recurrent depression

What is recurrent depression?

Recurrent depression means that you have one or more recurring (relapse) depressions after an initial episode.

What are the most common symptoms?

Concentration difficulties, memory impairment or increased fatigue are some symptoms. Consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist can help make a diagnosis.

How is depression diagnosed?

Diagnosis of depression is usually done through interviews and questionnaires. Sometimes blood tests can also be taken to rule out other medical causes.

Are there different types of recurrent depression?

There are different levels of depression, including mild, moderate and severe depression, but what makes the diagnosis of recurrent depression specific is that you have multiple episodes of depression. You can also have bipolar disorder with multiple depressive episodes, but then you also have manic periods and that is a different diagnosis.

How is recurrent depression treated?

Treatment options vary but often include a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common form of psychological treatment. It is also common that you may have to take a period of sick leave if you are depressed.

How long does depression treatment last?

The length of treatment can vary depending on the severity and individual needs. Some people can experience relief within a few weeks, while others need long-term treatment.

Is depression hereditary?

Genetics can play a role in depression, but it is usually a combination of several factors such as life events and personal circumstances that contribute to the illness.

Can exercise help with depression?

Yes, lifestyle factors such as exercise can affect your mental health but should not replace professional care and medication.

What are the risk factors for recurrent depression?

Depression is a combination of genetic, biological, psychological and environmental factors. If you are younger when you get your first depression, it is important to get the right treatment because recurrent depression can become more severe over time.

Is depression more common in men or women?

Depression is more common in women, but men are less likely to seek help. Symptoms may also differ between the sexes.

How does depression affect relationships?

Depression can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships and can lead to social isolation. It is important to get the right help.

Where can I get help?

If you experience symptoms of depression, it is important to seek professional help. Our psychologists and therapists are available for online sessions and can help you make the difficult easier. If you or someone you know has thoughts of self-harm, call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk immediately.

What help is available for recurrent depression?

Seeking help is a big step towards better health. It is a positive thing to decide to take control of how you feel. Here is an overview of the steps usually involved in therapy.

Step 1: An initial assessment session

The first meeting with your psychologist or therapist is usually a diagnostic evaluation to review your mental and physical health. You may be asked questions about your life situation, feelings, thoughts and behaviors. You may also be asked to complete assessment forms.

Step 2: Goal setting

This is where you and your therapist set concrete goals for the therapy, both short- and long-term.

Step 4: Treatment

This is the start of the actual treatment phase, which may involve treatment such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) but also medication if necessary. The therapy may include exercises and homework assignments aimed at giving you tools to change the way you feel.

Step 5: Monitoring and evaluation

Treatment is monitored regularly to see how well the therapy is working. If necessary, the treatment plan can be adjusted or renewed.

Step 6: Ending and looking ahead

As the therapy comes to an end, it is time to reflect on the progress made. You will also receive a plan on how to use the tools and strategies you have learned in the future.

If you or someone close to you is seeking professional help for depression, don’t hesitate to book a session with one of our qualified psychologists or therapists. In the case of an acute mental health emergency, call 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk immediately.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by dominic

Dominic is a Cape Town-based copywriter and editor with a background in psychology.