Although many people with bipolar disorder can carefully manage their symptoms through medication, therapy and coping strategies there is always the possibility of relapsing into another mood episode. Every person with bipolar disorder is at risk for relapse regardless of their situation or how long they have been treating their problem.
Understanding that relapse is a possibility can help patients be more prepared and cautious about how they handle their disorder. Patients with bipolar disorder who once had an addiction as well are particularly at risk for dealing with a relapse in both respects.
A return to substance abuse could cause them to have a mood episode and vice versa. Fortunately there are certain warning signs that people can look for that can help them stop a mood episode before it becomes a problem.
Recognizing Warning Signs
It is important for someone with bipolar disorder to know how to identify early warning signs because the sooner they notice a problem the easier it is to address it. Mild symptoms can be reversed by simple methods but a full blown episode may require hospitalization and even months of treatment.
Spotting warning signs way ahead of time can prevent symptoms from getting worse. The period of time preceding a mood episode is known as the "prodromal phase" and it can contain evidence that an episode may be approaching. Warning signs can vary from person to person but most commonly they are mild forms of bipolar disorder symptoms.
A person with bipolar disorder is familiar with their own symptoms but they may not realize their significance in a milder form. Other warning signs can be symptoms of other mental health problems, behaviors like isolating or neglecting important chores, changes in how you are thinking or feeling and physical symptoms such as digestive problems or headache that don't seem to have a specific cause.
Mild Symptoms that Can Lead to Relapse
People with bipolar disorder can experience a number of different symptoms that could signal an oncoming mood episode or relapse including crying spells, loss of pleasure in hobbies, decreased energy, anxiety, anger, sleep or appetite changes, trouble focusing or paying attention, neglecting work or household duties, feeling overwhelmed or out of sync with your environment and other people.
A person who has been treated for a dual disorder may begin drinking or using drugs on a small scale and this can lead to some of these milder symptoms that can evolve into a mood episode. A patient who has already gone through treatment for bipolar disorder should be able to identify their own individual warning signs that could signal an episode.
It can be a learning process to determine what your warning signs are but once you are aware of them it can be very helpful in preventing a relapse. It is important to know the type of bipolar disorder that you have, the symptoms of depression or mania that affect you and to understand how to manage bipolar disorder as a chronic brain condition.You should also try to recall previous episodes and think about what happened step by step including any of the warning signs that may have preceded them.
A person with bipolar disorder has a lot to keep in mind in order to successfully manage their disorder after treatment. As long as they understand their own relationship to the illness and how it affects them specifically they will be more in tune with possible warning signs that could indicate a relapse.
Learning the difference between your behavior when you are healthy and your bipolar behavior can help you better identify problem symptoms when they start to occur. Getting help early can prevent a full blown relapse that could derail your progress.
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