What Does a Mental Health Disorder Relapse Look Like?

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

gears with recovery and relapse written on them

Just as someone from a physical addiction may relapse and return to their addiction because of a trigger, someone with a mental illness can relapse. Relapse is defined as the recurrence of any disease that has gone into remission or recovery. In the above narrative, this person suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and has worked diligently through their obsessive thoughts and compulsions. One day they felt triggered – whether by a person, place, situation, or their own thoughts – and retreated to old habits of behavior, by asking their partner for reassurance.

When someone suffers from a mental illness, relapse often involves acting on those unwanted thoughts or feelings in a way that perpetuates the illness. For example, a person who suffers from severe anxiety may partake in recovery activities that help them recognize when they are feeling anxious and may provide them with tools to work through their anxiety. A relapse for this person would mean that one day, their anxiety gets to them and the person loses all sense of control that they had learned so far in their recovery.

Some warning signs that someone is experiencing a relapse are: major mood changes, losing their sense of humor, becoming very tense or agitated, difficulty concentrating, retreating from social situations, neglecting personal care, dressing unusually, sleeping excessively or not at all, eating too much or hardly at all, becoming very suspicious or hostile, increased sensitivity to light or noise, and more.

This list of signs is non-exhaustive, and may vary depending on the mental illness. If someone feels they may experience a relapse soon or are already suffering from a relapse, they should speak with a health care professional immediately. Working with a doctor and support team can help you get back on track and move past the incident. Family and friends should be receptive, loving and supportive and should research the mental illness to learn more ways of which they can help.


Residential treatment programs give you the time you need to focus on healing. Avalon Malibu is one of California’s only certified primary mental health treatment facility providing trusted programs with trusted results. For a confidential assessment and more information, call us today: 888-958-7511


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