Relapse in Mental illness

What You Can do to Prevent a Relapse into Mental Illness

Let’s face it. No matter how much we try, there is a good chance that you will have a relapse episode on your recovery journey. It is always important for us to make sure that we prepare for the eventual relapse episode in your mental illness.

It happens to us all. I am reminded of a recent relapse of my own. It was during Christmas. I had finished a very long semester and I was staring down two weeks of no real goals relating to school. I was overdoing life by writing every second I was awake and it showed a huge spike in depression leading up to the final week of my semester.

My depression had taken over, and I was not prepared. It took me several days of laying in bed to finally leave my bed, take a good shower, and have a good meal. I was able to refocus and I have been better ever since at not letting my goals overwork me.

My point is I wasn’t prepared for my depression when the time came.


Relapse can happen when the symptoms of your illness get worse, it could be the return of the symptoms. So what can we do? There are some warning signs that you can use to gauge if you are heading towards a relapse.

1. Irritability – This to me is important for my own mental health. It is a pretty good sign that my depression is getting worse and I am heading to a relapse when I am irritable. When I am quick to snap at someone it means I need to look deeper into what is bothering me.

2. Less Energy – This is equally important to your possible relapse episode. Depression especially can zap your energy before you even open your eyes. If you feel the need to stay in bed is present it could an important sign that you’re heading down the road to relapse.

3. Tiredness – I can’t tell you the number of times I wake up tired. It‘s another unfortunate sign of relapse.

4. Fears – I know when things are bad when I fear the future and what it brings. When I fear waking up the next day or if my anxiety is going to hit a high level. It’s a clear sign that there is a relapse on the horizon.


These are some of the signs that you can be relapsing in your mental health. It is imperative that we always stay attuned to our bodies and what it is telling us. It is also important to keep our minds sharp. You can do things like journaling your thoughts to help you focus on what is leading you down the path to relapse.

As always, I open this up to my fellow mental illness bloggers. What are some of your signs that you are going down the road to a relapse?

Always Keep Fighting

J.E. Skye


Upgrading The Bipolar Writer Blog to Business

I am looking to expand The Bipolar Writer blog to new territories that include having the blog sell books for other artists (if I can make everything work). I am also looking to sell my own book here on my blog. I hate asking for donations but I have to do what I can.


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53 Replies to “Relapse in Mental illness”

  1. I’m glad you mentioned these points. There seems to be a stigma that once someone with a mental health illness takes medication or feels better that they are totally ‘cured’. Then when they relapse they think they have failed, when in reality it’s only natural.

    1. Exactly. I don’t think in my case I will ever be cured. I will have many good days but the depression and my anxiety is always on the horizon no matter how good the medication is helping.

  2. Great article James! I have some of the same signs as you when I know I’m going to relapse (which is basically every weekend now) – particularly when it takes me four/five hours to get up Saturday/Sunday morning. That’s when I know things are going to get worse.

    1. That’s a sign that I am doing as well. I wrote this piece because I was laying in bed thinking that I should just lay there all day. I have been sick and I did that Thursday. But it inspired me to write this piece.

  3. With my DX, it’s really difficult to pinpoint a relapse point. BUT I feel when my temper and depression are literally cycling quicker than normal, I’m in trouble. I can get extremely vocal, as in yelling and wanting to break things. Also the impulse to just say, “f this”, and get in my car and leave work (which is the biggest trigger). Many times, I wanted to go home, or go to another area,like North Carolina, and basically runaway…..

  4. What are you supposed to do when you notice the signs? I dont really have any options or activities i like. I take my medication but i dont have any intervention options.

    1. I chose to write. Listen to music. Watch a movie I know makes me happy. Taking a walk is a good way to break the sign that you are relapsing. Spending time with people. That last one is important. I often isolate myself which is a bad habit.

  5. I take a mental health day when I notice that I can’t focus and that I’m tired. I do what I have to but then watch television and give my mind a rest.

  6. For me if I start avoiding food because it all tastes like cardboard and the very thought of cooking is so overwhelming I just can’t, I know I’m down the path to problems. Others for me are my nightmares start up again, I stop going on my walks, and the very idea of talking to people makes me tired. if I stop being able to talk myself out of my general paranoia and start having to reality check everything, oi I don’t even want to think about going back to those days.

    1. Wow these are not great things but it’s good you have a grasp of what are the things what causes relapses in your life. Thank you for sharing this we my blog and with me.

      1. For me awareness and knowledge of early warning signs is empowering. Means I feel levels of control, levels of choice, I’m not at the mercy of the whims of my brain, psyche, nervous system. I can take action, difficult as it may be, distasteful or unpleasant as it may be in the moment, I know the alternative and the early warning system is in place for a reason. It’s a good thing and for me prevents relapses, knock on wood over 5 years and counting.

  7. Symptoms for Relapse for me is
    Being tired all the time, waking up tired where everything is an effort, everything becomes a struggle and takes up so much of your energy you just want to go back to bed. Also like you mentioned irritability, people and things just get on your nerves, lack of motivation, feeling overwhelmed, withdrawing from people and life…loss of interest in everything…. the feeling of numbness creeping in… I’ve been through it all…. And relapsed soo so many times. I even had a few breakdowns in my younger years… At the Age of 21 I had a massive breakdown…Anyway I have been enjoying your posts and the awareness you have been creating around mental illness… you’ve got my support… keep on doing what your doing your making a difference. Much love 🙏

  8. Great article James. Very well put. Something I find so frustrating is that when you seem to be managing ok, people think you’re “fixed” but the reality is that under the surface you’re paddling like crazy like a duck. We constantly have to be checking and monitoring our moods and thoughts if we have any hope of preventing a relapse. Sometimes the relapse is inevitable/necessary though.

  9. I find it, that when i have a relapse in my mental conditions from before, that it’s just, best that i’d, let it take over me completely, to allow myself to feel the intense emotions, and it was scary, because i didn’t know, if i was, going to come out of it, and yet, time and time again, i had, come back out of that deep, dark hole i was in, and besides, it wouldn’t do you any good, to try to avoid your negative emotions…

  10. The winter months are, of course, always the hardest for me. These are exactly the signs I have that tell me I am on the verge of relapse.

  11. For me, relapse can be hard to tell at times. I was emotionally drained with a major assignment deadline, and the inability to submit it on time led me to break down silently right in front of two of my friends who just so happened to sit there with me. I thought the days would get better after that, but it only became worse as I started using my phone every chance I get to send messages to my friends which proved to be irrational and nonsensical, as my friends could not understand them. After some time of recovery from all that, did I realize that it was a relapse. It is refreshing to see someone write about relapses, I always kept these kind of topics off the table in real life and in the online community.

    1. It’s important to me to talk about these issues because they are so real. Relapse isn’t just for alcoholism. It’s a real thing in the mental health community and I believe the more we talk about it the more we can figure out our own tells. Thank you for sharing this with me.

      1. Very true. Sharing these experiences helps everyone, and we know that we are not alone. I never really share these kind of experiences, so it is really close to heart.

      2. I am glad that it helps that I share these types of experiences. I know what you mean about not sharing. It took me years to get to this point. But now that I am here, I’d rather be honest and share through experience than walk away. Maybe one day you will be more open to share.

  12. Hi – I too went and am going through a relapse. Unfortunately I have to work so there’s no I’m too tired, need a mental health day vibe that will fly. I really like your relapse tips though because I experience those same things as well. Another sign that I’m heading to a relapse is a loss of or fundamental increase in appetite. For example, for Dec / Jan I couldn’t eat at all. I wish that had lasted, but my Epilim induced appetite is making a come back… Keep on writing. 4m’sBipolarMom

  13. Irritability is definitely a main indicator for me. Especially when I realize I’m feeling irritable, but it seems like I am out of control of my reactions to things. It’s also a sign of PMS which I think is a trigger for most women and unfortunately, it means an up and down roller coaster monthly; which just sucks. This is when tea, rest, exercise/yoga and my tinctures really help the most and are critical for my mental wellness. Great post! ~Anne

    1. It’s great that you know your main triggers of a relapse. Irritability is high on my list. When I just snap at people I know that my depression is not letting rational thinking into my mind. Thank you for sharing this with me and my blog.

  14. Great post. Another sign for me is that I stop doing fun things that I’d usually try and do daily, for example read a chapter of a book. When I realised this was a sign of relapse I forced myself to always read or play a game (…and then I’d end up addicted, but better than the alternative!)

    1. That is much better than the alternative. Thank you for sharing it’s good in those situations to force yourself to do things. Just don’t over do it. I am famous for that. For me it’s writing

    1. It’s good to learn about the causes of our relapses because then we can see the signs. I am so happy to hear it’s been a long time since your last relapse.

    1. I deal with relapses by doing things that make me want to get out of bed. Playing my favorite role playing game. Writing is my big thing that gets me out of bed. I make an extra appointment with my therapist if my depression keeps getting worse after a relapse. I will write a blog post about it and explain more in detail.

  15. I have Been there, Done that, and OVERCAME it! Instead of Living with or Coping with Mental Illness, Learn how to Overcome it

      1. It is AMAZING!! And my Purpose in this life, is to show others who are Suffering, how to Overcome! And pass it on

      2. It is AMAZING!! My Purpose in this life, is to show others who are Suffering, how to Overcome, and pass it on

  16. Hi James, thanks for checking out my blog.

    For me I know I’m having another episode when I feel numb and start crying for seemingly no reason very late at night. Another indicator for me is the sudden comfort taken in routine like listening to the same music and eating the same cereal late at night. Thinking about death and bargaining with God to just let me die in extreme cases.

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