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What if my anxiety or depression comes back?

Tags: Anxiety

Fear of Relapse

You've been through a pretty tough time with S.A.D. and finally you feel like you're getting on top of it. You've been feeling much better – pretty 'normal' in fact. You've been mindful, using your coping skills and (hopefully) been pro-active using daily practices like Mindfulness, exercise, re-focusing, and so on.

Then you wake up one morning feeling bad.

Now everyone has good and bad days, but when you've been through a bad period of S.A.D. – a day that just might seem a bit 'blagh' to someone else – feels catastrophic to you, and that question starts going through your head.

What if my Anxiety or Depression comes back?

What if I go right back to the beginning and I have to go through this all over again?

Suddenly you start to feel worse, you start to ruminate and worry – and before you know it – you're on the 'slippery slope' again.


First – your catastrophic thinking, ruminating and worrying causes stress – stress is the beginning of S.A.D. and is guaranteed to make you feel worse.

Second – this stress contributes to 'The Kindling Effect [PDF]' in which small stimuli that wouldn't normally trigger a full on episode in someone who isn't prone to S.A.D. – may do so in someone who is, because your tolerance for stress or discomfort is lower. One of the ways I would put it is you're less resilient.

What do I do about it and what do I do to avoid relapse?

Here are some suggestions that can definitely help keep you off the 'slippery slope' to relapse.

  1. If you do wake up feeling 'Blagh' – normalise that everyone has a 'blagh' day now and then, and just because you're having one doesn't mean you'll end up back at the beginning. Encourage yourself not to catastrophize and use helpful self-talk such as "I'm sure I'll feel better once I get going" – and then distract and re-focus on something else - "It'll pass".
  2. Ask yourself is there anything special about this particular day – for example is it the anniversary of something like a death or has something stressful happened in the last day or so? – have you been overdoing it? – are you tired? - did you forget to take your medication, if you're on it?
  3. Don't get lazy about practising your coping skills, exercise, meditation and so forth. This is your 'Emotional brushing and flossing' (as I call it), that inoculates you against S.A.D. Be pro-active. Are you sleeping well? How's your diet? (See links to my article on this below).
  4. Have you been under significant stress in the period leading up to how you're feeling right now? Do things to make yourself feel better – up to and including taking a 'Mental Health Day', doing quiet, gentle activities that are soothing and pleasing – if you do - take charge though, and give yourself permission to do it – don't feel pushed into it by feelings of fear and inadequacy.
  5. Talk to someone. Connecting with others and talking and interacting (not necessarily about your problems), is a great balm for emotional distress.

I would emphasise that some people are going to relapse whatever they do – so I'm not saying that these suggestions are guaranteed to stop it or prevent it (but remember 'It will pass').

If your one 'blagh' day turns into two or three – then seek help, but in the meantime – don't make one 'blagh' day a self-fulfilling prophecy into relapse.

Helpful links:

Diet and herbal supplements (related article)

Getting a better night's sleep (related article)

Australian Bureau of Statistics mental health report 2013

Remember these resources:

Lifeline Australia - 13 11 14
Mensline Australia - 1300 78 99 78
Beyondblue - 1300 224 636
Suicideline Victoria - 1300 651 251
Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline - 1800 551 800