Deep Bench: How to best handle a relapse in mental illness recovery

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 5:46 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Preventing relapse is an important part of managing a mental illness. But unfortunately, having a relapse is more common than you may think.

Rachel Zentner, licensed professional counselor at Behavioral Health Clinic in Wausau joined NewsChannel 7 at 4′s Deep Bench on Monday to discuss mental illness relapse and its triggers. She said relapsed when it comes to mental health has to do with the return of disorder and an inability to function.

“So oftentimes when you live with mental illness, or mental health conditions, you may have symptoms that return, but they don’t normally impact functioning. A full relapse would mean the mental health condition or mental health disorder has returned to a place where it’s impacting functioning,” Zentner explained.

She said one common trigger to a relapse is the changing of seasons, like we are seeing now in the transition from winter to spring. Other common triggers are letting your health care routine slide where you’re not taking care of yourself as well as you had been and major life changes, positive or negative, like getting or losing a job, or a new physical health condition.

“These are all things that can really rock the boat for folks that are struggling,” Zentner added, saying that by no means does a relapse mean a person has failed on their recovery. “The idea that sometimes your symptoms would come back, whether it has anything to do with what you’ve done, is pretty common. It’s part of living with a mental health condition, rather than simply recovering and having it be a one and done type situation.”

If you do experience a relapse, Zentner said the best thing you can do is go back to doing what worked. For example, if you’ve had therapy in the past, it might be a good idea to call your therapist to make an appointment. Also, if you know you’ve been sliding on the amount of sleep you’re getting every night, it’s best to adjust your schedule to make sure you’re getting an adequate amount.

“Figure out what is going to work for you,” she said. “It isn’t the same for every person. There’s so many things that will make your unique living wellness plan right for you. Find out what that is [and] stick to it every day. It might seem boring, but it will prevent relapse.”

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