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What Is a Mental Health Relapse?

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The path of recovery from a mental illness is rarely straightforward. Mental health relapse symptoms don’t mean that a person’s treatment has failed – but they are indicators that additional help may be needed, and they should never be ignored.

What Is a Mental Health Relapse?

The term relapse is most commonly used to describe someone who has fallen back into active substance abuse after completing treatment for addiction. But it can also apply to people who experience a recurrence of symptoms after getting professional help for a mental health disorder.

The causes, effects, and severity of mental health relapse symptoms can vary widely from one person to the next. When you know what to look for and understand how to respond, you can address a temporary setback before it causes long-term harm. 

Mental Health Relapse Symptoms

If you are concerned about a loved one, keep an eye out for the following mental health relapse symptoms:

  • They have been undergoing dramatic swings in mood, attitude, confidence, and/or energy.
  • They have begun sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or not nearly enough (insomnia).
  • They have been acting impulsively in potentially harmful areas such as spending, gambling, eating, sex, or substance use.
  • They’ve ended their use of medications that were prescribed to help alleviate their symptoms.
  • They no longer attend support group meetings.
  • They have begun to pull away from family and friends, preferring to spend time alone.
  • They have stopped participating in hobbies or activities that they previously enjoyed.
  • They have been acting with uncharacteristic anger, aggressiveness, or even violence.
  • Their eating habits have changed, which has led to noticeable weight gain or loss.
  • Their performance in school or at work has declined and their absenteeism has increased.
  • They’ve started to have frequent headaches, stomach aches, and other generalized discomfort without a clear medical cause.
  • They become overly emotional in response to relatively minor difficulties.
  • They don’t seem to be paying much attention to their appearance or personal hygiene.

These are by no means the only mental health relapse symptoms that a person may experience or exhibit. In general, any significant changes in any area of life could be a sign that something has gone awry. 

If you think that someone in your life may be in the midst of a mental health relapse, don’t discount your suspicions. Your loved one may be in crisis – and while you can’t solve their problems, you can play an important role in reconnecting them with the care they need.

What Can Cause a Mental Health Relapse?

The events, experiences, or circumstances that can prompt mental health relapse symptoms are often referred to as triggers

The following are just a few examples of the many types of triggers that can undermine a person’s mental health progress:

  • Significant losses, such as the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, or losing a job
  • Positive life changes, such starting a new relationship, buying a house, having a child, graduating from college, beginning a new job, or getting a promotion
  • Stressors such as conflicts with friends or family members, difficulties in school, or problems at work
  • Medical problems involving themselves or someone that they care about
  • Traumatic experiences such as being attacked or assaulted
  • Age-related events such as retiring, reaching a certain age, or children moving out of the house
  • Taking a new prescription medication or ending the use of a previously prescribed medication

How to Respond to a Mental Health Relapse

Here are a few suggestions for how to respond if you have a mental health relapse or if someone that you care about begins to exhibit mental health relapse symptoms:

Responding to Your Own Mental Health Relapse

  • Resist the urge to isolate. Closing yourself off from family and friends can deprive you of valuable support and exacerbate your symptoms.
  • Make sure you’re eating well and exercising regularly. If you notice that you’ve begun to slack off in either of these areas, making beneficial corrections can have a positive effect on your mental health.
  • Start to keep a journal. The simple act of expressing your emotions or just recounting your daily activities in writing can help you process your experiences and look at your life from a slightly different perspective.
  • Practice self-care. This can include making sure you’re getting enough sleep, meditating, taking an occasional day off of work, and otherwise engaging in activities that promote good physical and mental health.
  • Talk to a healthcare professional. This could include scheduling a few extra sessions with a counselor or therapist, or talking to your doctor about changing your medication. If you are having a particularly severe relapse, you may need to consider getting help at the residential, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient level.

Responding to a Loved One’s Mental Health Relapse

  • Stay in touch with your loved one. This can include face-to-face conversations, phone calls, video chats, or text messages. Just be sure to let them know you’re thinking about them.
  • Talk to your loved one about what you’ve observed. Sometimes, people who have developed mental health relapse symptoms don’t even realize that they’re beginning to backslide. Express your concerns in a compassionate manner and emphasize your support.
  • Provide tangible assistance. Cook dinner for them or take them out to lunch. Offer to look after their children or drive them to therapy appointments. Find ways to make their life easier, and then take the appropriate action.
  • Encourage them to talk to a professional or return to therapy. Let them know this doesn’t mean that they’ve failed. Instead, it shows that they take their mental health seriously and they have hope for the future.

Find Treatment for Mental Health Relapses in Atlanta

Peachtree Recovery Solutions offers a full continuum of customized services for adults in the Atlanta area who have had a relapse of mental health symptoms. Our team can assess the full scope of your needs, then develop the personalized plan that will put you back on the path toward improved health. Throughout your time with us, you will be in a safe and supportive environment, working in close collaboration with a team of skilled and compassionate professionals.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.