Find care near you in 10 minutes with our online assessment.
Why is my depression getting worse?

Why is my depression getting worse?

Reviewed by:
Divya Khosla, MD
View bio
June 27, 2024
Original source:

Key takeaways

  • Signs of depression include a diminished sense of pleasure, negative thoughts, and a loss of energy.
  • Talk therapy and antidepressants can help combat worsening depression, along with practicing self-care and keeping up with physical wellness.
In this article

Depression is a mental health condition that leads to loss of interest in regular activities, social withdrawal, and intense feelings of sadness. If you’ve experienced depression, also called major depressive disorder (MDD), you know how deeply it affects your quality of life and day-to-day functioning. The good news is that depression is extremely treatable, and many people find relief through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, and other treatment options.  

However, it’s possible for someone’s experience with depression to change over time. Life stress, new medical conditions, and lifestyle changes can all cause depression to return or worsen.  

If you’re experiencing worsening depression, you’re probably thinking, “Why is my depression getting worse?” In this article, we’ll review nine possible reasons for your worsening symptoms and how to handle this change.  

Expert care for depression is here. See if Talkiatry is right for you.

Start our short assessment

9 reasons for worsening depression  

There is a wide range of factors that may cause your depression to worsen, ranging from substance misuse to stress to lack of exercise. Regardless of why your depression is worsening, it’s important to discuss these life changes with your doctor so they can help you find the right treatment plan. It’s also helpful to know what triggers a worse depressive episode for you, so that you can make lifestyle changes and feel prepared in case a similar situation arises in the future.

1. Poor sleep quality

Good sleep helps you regulate your emotions and handle stress and life changes more easily. So it’s no surprise that an ongoing lack of good sleep habits may damage your mental health. Several things may be causing your lack of sleep, including sleep apnea, stress, insomnia, or physical pain.  

2. Substance use

Some people turn to substances to cope with the distress that comes with mental health conditions like depression. In fact, one-third of people with major depression also struggle with their relationship with alcohol. Substance abuse often worsens depression symptoms by increasing social isolation and feelings of sadness and loneliness.

3. Medication side effects

Finding the right antidepressant can be life-changing. However, if your medication isn’t working for you, it’s possible it can make your depression worse. A possible side effect of many antidepressants is worsening depression and suicidal thoughts. If you experience this side effect, tell your doctor immediately.  

It’s also possible for antidepressants to stop working and for your depression to return—a phenomenon called breakthrough depression.

4. Life changes

Big life changes like losing your job, moving, ending a relationship, getting divorced, or having a child often come with a lot of stress and an adjustment period. It’s common for depression to return or worsen during these periods.  

Moving or ending a relationship may result in changes in your support system, especially if you move away from family or lose touch with your close friends. Losing your job may also cause significant stress, including financial stress, that many people have a difficult time coping with. Life changes like pregnancy or menopause cause hormonal changes that can lead to depression. Learn about postpartum depression here.  

5. Stress

Stress isn’t always caused by massive life change. Sometimes small things, like juggling a busy routine, having a demanding job, or raising a family can put enough stress on a person that it affects their mental health. Chronic stress causes inflammation that impacts your brain, worsening depression for some.  

Your stress may also lead to anxiety, which can also affect your depression. Here’s more on how and anxiety and depression are related.

6. Physical pain

Not only can severe depression cause pain, but physical pain can cause depression. If you already struggle with depression and experience an accident or event that causes ongoing physical pain, it may cause a worse depressive episode.  

7. Social isolation

Loneliness and a depressed mood often go hand in hand. Feeling lonely may lead you to isolate yourself from loved ones and avoid social situations, especially if you also struggle with social anxiety. This isolation often worsens feelings of loneliness and symptoms of depression.  

8. Medical conditions

Chronic medical conditions may lead to clinical depression, or make depression worse, for a variety of reasons. For example, depression may be a side effect of certain medications. Ask your primary care doctor if you think an underlying medical issue is the reason for worsening depression.

Additionally, a medical diagnosis is a big change. It causes stress, lifestyle changes, and alters your day-to-day routine. This anxiety is enough to worsen depression for many people. On top of added stress, certain medical conditions, like Parkinson’s disease or strokes, actually change your brain, making it more likely for you to experience symptoms of depression.

9. Poor diet and lack of regular exercise

A healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity, is shown to improve depression symptoms. If you use a healthy diet and exercise to help treat your depression, and then are no longer able to do so, your depression may worsen. Whether you stop exercising due to a medical condition, changes at work, a busy schedule, or other reasons—it’s possible your depression symptoms will return or intensify.

What should you do if your depression gets worse?

If your depression gets worse, it’s important to check in with a mental health professional and your support system. That means making an appointment with your psychiatrist, therapist, or another trusted healthcare professional to let them know what’s going on. They’ll be able to help you create a treatment plan—or adjust the one you already have—to meet your changing needs. This may include changing medications, changing doses, or increasing the frequency of your therapy sessions. Don’t worry, you’re not the first one to experience worsening depression and they’ll be prepared to support you.  

It’s also a great idea to check in with your friends and family members to let them know what’s going on. Social isolation and loneliness are hallmarks of depression, so working to combat those feelings by connecting with the people that care about you may help you start feeling better and serve as a good reminder that you’re not alone.  

Signs of worsening depression

Here are a few symptoms to look out for that may indicate worsening depression.

  • Increased difficulty making decisions
  • Increased feelings of worthlessness
  • Lower energy levels
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
  • Worsening sleeping patterns
  • Weight loss or weight gain

Can you be depressed forever?

The short answer is no, depression is highly treatable and you can feel back to yourself after seeking treatment. Depressive symptoms can present differently for someone at different times in their life, so it's important to work with a psychiatrist to come up with an individualized plan for treatment in the context of your symptoms. Antidepressants are effective options that can balance serotonin or other brain chemicals to help relieve your symptoms, and it’s typically safe to restart them after stopping, too.

However, it’s important to know that depression commonly occurs in recurrent depressive episodes. Each depressive episode typically lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. The length of your depressive episodes—and the length of time between them—depends on a number of factors, including the underlying causes, how quickly you seek treatment, and whether you’re experiencing treatment-resistant depression. It may be years before you experience another episode.  

If your depression has lasted for a significant period of time, you may be experiencing persistent depressive disorder (PDD). Persistent depressive disorder is identified by mild to moderate depression symptoms that last for at least two years.

Every person experiencing depression is different. That’s why it’s important to speak to a mental health professional about the symptoms you experience. They can help you develop the right treatment plan for you and a realistic timeline for recovery.  

Ready to start treatment? Meet Talkiatry, a national psychiatry practice that provides in-network care. We’ll help you find an effective treatment plan that may include medication, therapy, or both. Schedule a first visit within days by completing a short online assessment.

The information in this article is for education and informational purposes only and should never be substituted for medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

Learn about the conditions we treat

How it works
Tip #1
Tell us about you
Take 10 min to tell us about why you’re seeking care and what you’re looking for.
Tip #2
Explore your matches
We’ll show you the bios and treatment approaches of doctors who are a match for you.
Tip #3
Schedule your visit
Find a time that works for you. We can usually see you in just days.
Tip #4
Start your journey
Join your visit from the comfort of home and get a personalized treatment plan.
Laptop computer simulation showing a psychiatry session with a psychiatrist
Start our short assessment

Frequently asked questions

Does Talkiatry take my insurance?

We're in network with major insurers, including:

  • Aetna
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • Humana
  • Medicare
  • Oscar
  • United Healthcare
  • Optum
  • Compsych

Even if your insurer isn't on the list, we might still accept it. Use the insurance eligibility checker in our online assessment to learn more.

Can I get an estimate of my visit cost?

The best way to get a detailed estimate of your cost is to contact your insurance company directly, since your cost will depend on the details of your insurance.  

For some, it’s just a co-pay. If you have an unmet deductible it could be more.  

Call the number on your insurance card and ask about your plan’s coverage for outpatient psychiatric services.

How does Talkiatry compare to face-to-face treatment?

For most patients, Talkiatry treatment is just as effective as in-person psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association, 2021), and much more convenient. That said, we don’t currently provide treatment for schizophrenia, primary eating disorder treatment, or Medication Assisted Treatment for substance use disorders.

What kind of treatment does Talkiatry provide?

At Talkiatry, we specialize in psychiatry, meaning the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Your psychiatrist will meet with you virtually on a schedule you set together, devise a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and work with you to adjust your plan as you meet your goals.

If your treatment plan includes medication, your psychiatrist will prescribe and manage it. If needed, your psychiatrist can also refer you to a Talkiatry therapist.

What's the difference between a therapist and psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are doctors who have specialized training in diagnosing and treating complex mental health conditions through medication management. If you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, or similar, a psychiatrist may be a good place to start.  

Other signs that you should see a psychiatrist include:  

  • Your primary care doctor or another doctor thinks you may benefit from the services of a psychiatrist and provides a referral    
  • You are interested in taking medication to treat a mental health condition  
  • Your symptoms are severe enough to regularly interfere with your everyday life

The term “therapist” can apply to a range of professionals including social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychoanalysts. Working with a therapist generally involves regular talk therapy sessions where you discuss your feelings, problem-solving strategies, and coping mechanisms to help with your condition.

Who can prescribe medication?

All our psychiatrists (and all psychiatrists in general) are medical doctors with additional training in mental health. They can prescribe any medication they think can help their patients. In order to find out which medications might be appropriate, they need to conduct a full evaluation. At Talkiatry, first visits are generally scheduled for 60 minutes or more to give your psychiatrist time to learn about you, work on a treatment plan, and discuss any medications that might be included.

Divya Khosla, MD

Dr. Divya Khosla, MD, is a board certified Adult Psychiatrist and board eligible Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. She received her undergraduate degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and her medical degree from Ross University, completing all of her clinicals in Maryland, D.C., and NYC. She completed her adult psychiatry residency at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Then she returned to the east coast, where she completed her child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, New York.

Dr. Khosla has participated in a variety of innovative academic clinical research, and has presented research at annual national meetings of the American Psychiatric Association. Her robust clinical experience with varying demographics at different clinical sites around the country has allowed her to treat patients in an evidence-based way, tailoring treatment to an individual’s specific needs.

Although Dr. Khosla’s practice focuses on medication management, she also implements supportive therapy and motivational interviewing in sessions to allow for a more comprehensive approach to treatment. Her clinical interests include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and ADHD.

Read more
Article sources
Related posts
June 28, 2024

How long does Lexapro take to work?

Read more ›
June 29, 2024

Reverse SAD: Is summertime sadness a thing?

Read more ›
June 27, 2024

Paxil vs Zoloft: Comparing medications

Read more ›
June 27, 2024

Why do I wake up angry? How do I stop?

Read more ›
June 27, 2024

Why is my depression getting worse?

Read more ›
June 22, 2024

Does depression make you lose weight?

Read more ›

Mental health is personal.
So is our approach to psychiatry.

Get started