You are now leaving
Rethink Depression
About depression
Rethink icon

The residual risk of relapse

Down arrow Scroll for articles

Recovery beyond your mood: how other symptoms could cause a relapse

With depression, the road to recovery can be rocky and, just like other chronic conditions, there’s a risk that you’ll relapse. Relapse is when symptoms of depression return after previously feeling better.1 It can feel like a big setback for someone with depression.

Why does relapse happen?

Studies have shown that many people with depression experience symptoms that go beyond low mood, and often persist even when your mood has improved. These may include:2,3

  • Cognitive symptoms, for example difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness, forgetfulness
  • Physical symptoms, for example feeling tired all the time, losing or gaining lots of weight, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling restless or slow
  • Other emotional symptoms, such as not taking any pleasure in things they used to enjoy

If left untreated, or if treated unsuccessfully, these residual symptoms may increase the risk of relapse.4­–6

For more information about signs and symptoms of depression, Click here


Think of it as a vicious cycle, where cognitive symptoms have a negative effect on your day-to-day life at home and work, which then makes you feel bad, which causes a deterioration in mood, which then leads to a greater likelihood of relapse, leading to further cognitive symptoms… and so on.


This is why it’s important to tell your doctor about all of your symptoms – not just your mood – especially if cognitive problems are stopping you from being able to function properly at home or at work. They will then be able to ensure that you continue to receive the treatment that is right for you.

For more information and support visit the ‘Talking to your doctor’ section of our website

icon download
  1. Frank E et al. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1991; 48: 851–855.

  2. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association. 2013.

  3. Conradi HJ et al. Psychol Med 2011; 41: 1165–1174.

  4. Papakostas GI. J Clin Psychiatry 2014; 75(1): 8–14.

  5. Majer M et al. Psychol Med 2004; 34(8): 1453–1463.

  6. Paykel ES et al. Dialogues Clin Neurosci 2008; 10: 431–437.

You may also like...

Life stories: Nico

In these videos, we talk to Nico, who is 27 and manages a restaurant. He also has a young son, and enjoys playing the guitar and...

Identifying and managing triggers to prevent relapse

Recovering from depression can be one of the toughest times in your life and the last thing you would want is to go through it all over...

Preventing relapse of depression

Sometimes, coping with depression can feel like an uphill struggle. So when you get to the top and breathe the fresh air, the last thing...