Mental Health Relapses Happen

In April 9, 2018

While most people associate the term “relapse” with addiction, it is a problem that can occur with many other types of illnesses. Unfortunately, people that have been through recovery for a mental illness can also experience a relapse in which their strongest symptoms return. As is the case with treating addiction there is no permanent “cure” when someone is diagnosed with a mental illness and Mental Health Relapses Happen.

People who struggle with mental illness need to learn how to recognize the signs of a possible relapse as do their loved ones. Believing that a relapse won’t ever happen means that you won’t be prepared if it should occur. Learning more about mental health relapses can help you both prevent and catch early warning signs so that you can get help.

It is important to understand that relapse does not mean that the person has to start over from square one. Once they have done with work in their mental health recovery it is possible for them to get back on track. However, it is always a good idea to seek professional help from a therapist or a treatment center when a relapse occurs.

What Causes Mental Health Relapse?

It can be difficult to predict when and why a person will relapse but typically mental health relapses happen in response to triggers. Someone who has had minimal symptoms for a period of months or even years may have a sudden recurrence of their symptoms when a stressful event occurs. It can be much easier to cope with a mental illness in times of stability but when stress becomes overwhelming a person can easily experience a relapse.

Any changes to a person’s routine can also trigger a relapse. If they suddenly change their treatment plan or engage in different behavior they are putting themselves at risk for relapse. These are some of the most common causes of mental health relapse.

  • Stopping medication suddenly or not taking it as prescribed
  • Engaging in substance abuse by using drugs or alcohol
  • Conflict in relationships including a break up or divorce
  • Being under stress at work or losing a job
  • Illness or death of a loved one
  • Financial difficulties including losing your home

Whenever someone has a mental illness they need to have coping strategies that they use to deal with stress. However, sometimes a very stressful event can be so overwhelming that they are not able to handle their symptoms. When a relapse is triggered by a painful for stressful event the person may need to return to treatment.

Recognizing Symptoms of Relapse

In order to minimize the damage caused by mental health relapse it can be helpful to learn more about the warning signs and symptoms associated with it. The symptoms that a person has during relapse may not always be the same as what they experienced when they first recognized that they had a disorder. They may have a different reaction based on the type of trigger that has caused their symptoms to return.

These are some of the common warning signs that someone may experience a relapse-

  • Sleep problems including too much or too little sleep
  • Feeling tense, nervous or hostile
  • Isolation or social withdrawal
  • Confusing or nonsensical speech
  • Noticeable appetite or weight changes
  • Increase in paranoia or hallucinations
  • Risk taking behaviors

The type of warning signs that a person exhibits will depend strongly on their specific mental illness but any kind of noticeable change in a person’s behavior or mood could indicate an oncoming relapse. It is important that if someone is experiencing a return to very intense symptoms of mental illness that they seek medical and psychological help.

Rebounding from a Mental Illness Relapse

There is no need to view a relapse as a failure because many times it can be a natural response to stressful circumstances. In order to rebound and get back on track after a relapse it is crucial to get back into a healthy routine. The first step is quitting any alcohol or drugs that could have triggered the relapse and maintaining sobriety for the best mental health.

It is also important to start taking medication again regularly and follow the recommendation of a psychiatrist regarding dosage. Eating healthy and getting enough sleep can also be crucial in establishing a good mental health routine when you are recovering from a relapse. Your number one priority however should be focusing on therapy and talking to a professional about the symptoms you have been experiencing.

In regular therapy or in a treatment center you can receive guidance on how you can recover from a Mental Health Relapses Happen and quickly get back to a more stable place. Making sure that you have support and professional care can prevent a relapse from seriously interfering with your health and your life.

By Dr. Reuben Vaisman-Tzachor

Primary Therapist