Fact sheet 11
Recovering from depression and anxiety
There is no one proven way to recover from depression, anxiety and related illnesses. But with appropriate treatment and the right support, you will recover. There are also many things you can do to help yourself, including managing stress and being aware of situations or events that might set you back.
- Shock at having to deal with something difficult and scary that you’ve never experienced before.
- Denial or difficulty accepting that you have a health problem, particularly one that people may find hard to understand.
- Despair and anger that you have to deal with this health problem while other people seem to have normal lives.
- Acceptance that your experience of depression or anxiety will change your
life, how others see you and how you see yourself.
- Coping with new ways to live with depression or anxiety, and tackling the changes and challenges that this may bring.
Support and treatment
The way to recovery from depression and anxiety usually involves getting support from other people. Your family and friends can play an important role by offering help and understanding. A doctor or counsellor can help you to work out the best ways to cope with how you’re feeling and make a plan to get through it. Usually this will involve psychological therapy, which is the main treatment for depression and anxiety in young people. Other ways to tackle depression and anxiety, such as managing stress and following tips to improve your sleep patterns, can also be useful.
Looking after yourself
While support and treatment will help you to recover from depression and anxiety, there are also simple things that you can do to get through the tough times. One of the most important things can be talking to people about how you are feeling. You might also like to keep a diary of your feelings – take time every now and then to look through it and think about the progress you have made.
Developing a weekly plan can help you make sure you get everything done that’s important, while avoiding overdoing things and becoming stressed. It’s a good idea to make sure there’s enough time for regular meals, going to appointments with your doctor or counsellor, and doing things that you enjoy.
Learning how to relax using breathing and exercises can help to reduce your stress levels.
Remember, it’s important to keep talking to people about how you are feeling. As well, you should try to eat healthily, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and avoid alcohol and other drugs.
Some situations or events can make people more likely to have another episode of depression. These situations or events are called ‘triggers’.
Common triggers include family problems, financial difficulties, changing living arrangements, changing jobs or losing a job, having other health problems, losing someone close to you, changing treatment and using alcohol and other drugs.
Trying to avoid these triggers can be an important part of recovering, as well as learning to manage triggers that can’t be avoided.
Relapse or becoming unwell again
The recovery process doesn’t necessarily have a clear beginning, middle and end. Some people will only experience one episode of depression or anxiety in their lives. But many people who experience an episode of depression will go on to have more symptoms or have another episode - often called ‘relapse’.
We don’t know for sure what makes some young people more likely than others to have a relapse. For some people, risk factors such as a family history of depression or anxiety, or another mental health or physical condition can increase the chances of relapse. But we do know that that the shorter the episode of depression or anxiety and the less severe symptoms, the better young people tend to do in the long term. That’s why it’s so important to get help early, follow your treatment plan and keep going with your treatment, even after you start to feel better.
As well, as looking after yourself and managing stress levels, monitor your mood changes to identify early warning signs (e.g. sleep changes, feelings of hopelessness) and include activities in your day that you know have a good effect on your mood (e.g. listening to music, visiting friends).
Getting to know the warning signs
Warning signs are signals that you may be more likely to experience depression or anxiety again. You may realise that you are changing in how you think, act or feel. Some common warning signs include wanting to stay in bed longer, skipping meals, finding it hard to concentrate, eating unhealthily, having trouble sleeping, feeling irritable or stressed, wanting to spend a lot of time alone or feeling teary.
You can learn to identify your warning signs by thinking about the signs and symptoms you experienced when you became unwell in the past.
If you experience these warning signs, it’s important to seek help early.
Key points to remember
- Overcoming setbacks can be difficult. If you have a relapse, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you will never feel well again. But there are ways to move through this stage and back to recovery.
- If you do have a setback, try not to blame yourself. Setbacks are bound to happen and feeling disappointed can make moving on difficult.
- Learning how to manage anything new can be about trial and error. Keep trying!
- Feeling depressed and anxious can make it hard to see the good side of things. Focusing on what you have achieved can help you to keep making progress.
- A relapse can help you to think about your situation and, with the help of a health professional, find new ways to manage – this can make you more able to cope with feeling unwell and may help prevent further setbacks.
More information and support
This fact sheet is based on information from: