PostgreSQL Constraint for relation already exists

In PostgreSQL, a constraint is a rule or restriction applied to a column or a group of columns in a table to enforce data integrity. Constraints help maintain the consistency, accuracy, and reliability of the data stored in the database.

The cause of error

One common error encountered in PostgreSQL is the relation already exists error when trying to create a constraint. This error message indicates that a constraint with the same name already exists in the specified relation (table).

When creating a constraint, whether it’s a primary key, foreign key, unique, or check constraint, it is essential to ensure that the constraint name is unique within the schema. If you attempt to create a constraint with a name that already exists in the relation, PostgreSQL will throw an error.


To resolve the “relation already exists” error, you have a few options:

Choose a different constraint name: The simplest solution is to provide a unique constraint name when creating the constraint. Ensure that the name you choose doesn’t conflict with any existing constraints in the table.

Drop the existing constraint: If the existing constraint is no longer needed or is causing conflicts, you can drop it before creating the new one. You can use the ALTER TABLE statement with the DROP CONSTRAINT clause to remove the existing constraint. Once dropped, you can proceed with creating the new constraint.

Modify the existing constraint: If the existing constraint is similar to the one you want to create, you can modify it instead of creating a new one. You can use the ALTER TABLE statement with the ALTER CONSTRAINT clause to change the definition of an existing constraint.


Here’s an example of dropping an existing constraint and creating a new one:

-- Drop the existing constraint
ALTER TABLE table_name 
DROP CONSTRAINT existing_constraint_name;

-- Create the new constraint
ALTER TABLE table_name 
ADD CONSTRAINT new_constraint_name CONSTRAINT_TYPE (column_name);

Remember to replace table_name, existing_constraint_name, new_constraint_name, CONSTRAINT_TYPE, and column_name with the appropriate values for your scenario.

It’s important to note that dropping or modifying constraints can affect the integrity of your data. Therefore, exercise caution when making changes to existing constraints and ensure that the new constraints you create meet your data integrity requirements.

By following these steps, you should be able to resolve the “relation already exists” error and successfully create the desired constraint in PostgreSQL.