How to Avoid a Relapse in Recovery From a Mental Health Disorder
“Is relapse a normal part of recovery? What can I do to get back on track?” One of the biggest fears for anyone that has gone through treatment for a mental health disorder is having a relapse. It can be extremely depressing, discouraging, or demoralizing when you realize that you are slipping back into the old patterns of behavior you worked so hard to change. Old habits die hard, and your disorder will fight to keep to keep on controlling your life. But even if you lose a battle, you don’t have to surrender. You can still make peace with the disorder that has waged a war against you. Here are some steps to help someone stay on track.
Things are going well. You begin to feel like there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. Then, suddenly everything gets worse. It’s like the disorder is making one last attempt to get you back at the starting point. The feelings of failure or shame that result from this incident only make it feel worse than it is. These kinds of setbacks may even threaten to send someone spiraling back to the condition they were in when they began treatment. This is what therapists are talking about when they discuss the dilemma known as ‘extinction burst.’
Extinction bursts are actually quite common. It’s can be a sign that you really are getting better. It can mean that you are closer to long-lasting recovery than you think. But a temporary setback can be overwhelming when it happens. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep you on the path to recovery.
11 Tips to Help Someone Stay Strong and How to Avoid a Relapse in Recovery From a Mental Health Disorder
- Develop new tools to help you manage stress.
Stress is a common trigger for almost any mental health disorder. The more stress you have in your life, the more likely you will be tempted to resort to old thought patterns and behaviors. Explore relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, or reasonable, healthy exercise routines. Try them out to determine the methods that you enjoy most and practice them on a regular basis.
- Avoid old habits and patterns
After you have completed your treatment, you will need to make a conscious effort to stay away from some of the issues, situations, or triggers that put you at risk. Avoid the temptation to avoid change. The ‘new and improved you’ will have a difficult time succeeding if you keep resorting to what you did in the past. Change is hard. Know that, at certain times, even pain can seem like a familiar source of comfort.
- Get help
Seek help immediately for any serious mental health issues or disorders that suddenly crop up. Some behavior disorders, like eating disorders, can mask the symptoms of other underlying disorders such as depression or anxiety. These conditions may become more apparent when the symptoms from the major disorder you have struggled with diminish. If you can address these unresolved issues and work through them, your risk of relapse will be much lower.
- Watch Out for Substance Abuse
It’s common for young people that struggle with mental health disorders to self-medicate. Even though alcohol is a depressant, it’s often used to numb the side effects or symptoms of depression. Drugs and alcohol can easily impair judgment and put a young person in situations that risk their health. It’s not uncommon for people to trade one addiction for another.
- Stick to Your Treatment Plan
After you’ve completed a treatment program, it’s crucial that you follow the plan you developed with your therapists. If you are supposed to attend regular therapy sessions, don’t skip appointments. If medications are involved your treatment routine, follows the orders for the prescription.
- Have a Backup Plan
If you experience a setback, make sure you have a plan in place. Mistakes happen. Knowing what you might do ahead of time can be very effective when you feel you are being tested by tough times. The worst thing you can do is give up.
- Find healthy new ways to have fun
The old behavior patterns may have taken a lot of time and energy. Replace them with activities that add joy to your life. Consider trying a new hobby or sport. Volunteer or take a class in something you’re passionate about. Having a new interest can make you a lot less vulnerable to relapse.
- Educate yourself
Read books, attend seminars, or network with others that are actively engaged in strengthening their recovery. Find out what worked for other people. The more you learn, the more coping skills you’ll have for sustaining your recovery.
- Build a strong support system
The more people someone has in their life that want to lift them up, the odds of them falling down decrease. Deepen your ties to the ones you trust. Special friends, family members, classmates, co-workers, or therapists can be great resources when you need them the most.
- Remember your goals
Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Continue to strive for your vision of the way you want your life to be. Along the way, set smaller attainable goals, too. This can help keep you focused and on track.
- Know that this too will pass
If you experience a relapse, try to learn from it. It’s important to remember that relapse episodes are often a normal and natural part of recovery. If you can benefit from these experiences, you can become even stronger and more resilient.
Recovery isn’t a Destination, it’s a Journey
If someone you love is struggling to recover from a serious mental health disorder, Discovery Mood can help. Our personalized behavior modification programs teach adolescents and teens the practical coping skills they need for long-lasting recovery. Discovery Mood provides multi-faceted levels of care that range from residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, to partial hospitalization for adolescents and teens that suffer from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, self-harm behaviors, gender identity issues, oppositional defiant disorder, and most major mental health disorders.
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Eating Disorder HOPE: 5 ways to recover from relapse in bulimia recovery, by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
Hypersexual Disorders: 10 Tips to Prevent Relapse after Treatment. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
Behavior Health Evolution: Nine Strategies for Families Helping a Loved One in Recovery. Retrieved November 4, 2016.