What is Breakthrough Depression?

breakthrough depression

Breakthrough depression happens when symptoms of depression return or worsen. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Research estimates that up to 33 percent of people using antidepressants have their symptoms return. This can be frustrating, especially if you felt that your symptoms were under control. 

Let’s learn more about why breakthrough depression happens and what you can do about it. 

What Causes Antidepressants to Stop Working? 

When your symptoms respond to an antidepressant, you’ll want to continue taking it to prevent the symptoms from returning. But what happens when the medication stops working? 

There are a number of reasons why antidepressants can stop being effective. They include: 

  • Tolerance. If you have been on an antidepressant for a long time, it is possible for your body to develop a tolerance to it, making it less effective. 
  • Substance use. Drugs or alcohol can cause strong mood changes and make your antidepressant less effective. They also have their own effects, such as feeling sluggish and helpless. 
  • New stressors. New sources of stress – a new job, a breakup, etc. – can cause changes in the brain that the medication can’t keep up with. 
  • Other medications or conditions. Any new diagnosis or medication should be brought to your doctors’ attention. It’s possible that they could be interfering with your antidepressant. 
  • Worsening depression. Sometimes, the depression is simply worsening and you may need a higher dose or new medication to treat the symptoms. 

How to Treat Breakthrough Depression 

The first thing to do is acknowledge your symptoms and report them to your doctor or treatment team. Together, you can try to understand where the changes might be coming from. Are you dealing with new stressors? Have you received a new diagnosis, such as a thyroid condition? Or are you still struggling with drug or alcohol use? 

Once you know what’s causing the depression, you can treat it. Here are some approaches to treating breakthrough depression

Increase the dose under supervision.

If you’re responding well to the medication, it’s possible that you may just need a higher dose to treat worsening symptoms. Generally speaking, doctors will prescribe the lowest dose needed to treat symptoms. If it doesn’t work or stops working, they can gradually increase the dose for a better response. 

Try a new antidepressant. 

There are many types of antidepressants, which means another medication might work better for you. Talk to your doctor first, as you can’t go from one medication to another. And, your doctor will likely want you to try the medication for several months before switching to a new one. 

Increase therapy sessions.

Antidepressants are effective, but they are not a miracle cure. You’ll also need to make lifestyle changes to improve depression symptoms, such as eating healthy, exercising, getting enough rest, attending therapy and avoiding drugs and alcohol. 

Therapy, in particular, is an excellent tool for treating depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you identify negative thought patterns and replace them with healthy ones. When depression symptoms kick up, make therapy a priority. 

There are many approaches to treating depression – antidepressants are just part of the equation. If you feel that your depression is returning, get in touch with your doctor or a treatment team like Wolf Creek Recovery.. With a few adjustments, you can get back on track with your mental health and protect your recovery.