Preventing anxiety and depression relapses


By David Joel Miller.

10 Ways to avoid a relapse of anxiety or depression.

Anxiety and Depression are treatable, but like other conditions it is possible to relapse into anxiety and depression. There are some understandable reasons to relapse on anxiety. But what steps can you take to prevent a mental health relapse?

1. Learn and learn again.

Just learning something once is not enough. To learn it thoroughly you need to continue studying even once you think you have it. We call this form of learning “overlearning.” Learn your relapse prevention skill beyond the point of being able to recite it. Learn your relaxation techniques and thought stopping skills until those processes become automatic.

2. Don’t quit your lessons once you pass the first test.

For substance abuse clients we know that the longer they stay in treatment past the point of getting off the drugs the better their chances of avoiding a relapse. The same is true of anxiety and depression. Fears will return. Life stressors will get you down. Having stayed in treatment will build protection from an emotional relapse.

3. Face your problems as they come.

Using avoidance and distraction only make the challenge larger. Putting things off, using substances or not thinking about your challenges may seem like a way to avoid the fear in the beginning, but fear avoided grows. Seeking out pleasure as a way to avoid anxiety or depression works for a while but eventually you will have to face your problems.

4. Practice and train for many possible triggers for a relapse.

If you are afraid of snakes practice looking at and talking about many kinds of snakes. If your fear is public speaking make as many small presentations as possible with as many different groups as possible. Practice speaking on several topics. The more potential cues for fear you practice on the better prepared you will be for an unexpected fear.

5. Practice your relapse prevention skills in multiple locations.

It is easier to manage fear of snakes when looking at a picture book in the library than to avoid fear in the woods. Practice in the yard, on walks in the neighborhood and as many other places as you can find to be outside and think I can handle seeing a snake if one should cross my path. Practice public speaking in more than one place.

6. Practice relapse prevention skills at times you are slightly uncomfortable.

You don’t develop skills if there is no challenge. Your anxiety relapse prevention exercises need to create a little anxiety. Training when you are very anxious is setting yourself up for failure. Gradually increase the challenges, keeping the anxiety at a manageable level.

7. Self-improvement programs work better with a little homework.

Set some homework projects for yourself. Ask your counselor or support system for suggestions. Don’t put homework off. You grow by repeated practice.

8.  Not all homework has to be done involving real danger.

Mental rehearsals for challenges can be helpful in increasing your ability to cope with an anxiety provoking situation. What should you do if the situation occurs? What do you wish you were able to do? Picture yourself doing the thing you most would like to be able to accomplish.

9. Use “I can” self-talk.

Telling yourself that you will be able to cope increases the likelihood you will be able to cope. People who repeatedly tell themselves they can’t find they are right. Use coping language and stories to help you picture being successful and competent.

10. Avoid emotional reasoning.

Just because something feels scary does not make it dangerous. Examine the connection between your fears, anxiety and sad thoughts and the things that cause them. You likely will find that it is the view of the situation that is causing the negative emotion.

There are 10 Ways to avoid a relapse of anxiety, depression or other negative emotion.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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4 thoughts on “Preventing anxiety and depression relapses

  1. Pingback: Anxiety, Depression and Relapse | David Miller, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

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