Relapse is a common and important concern of the patient with bipolar disorder. A relapse is the return of depression or a manic or hypomanic episode after a period of wellness. A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that 73 percent of patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder experienced at least one relapse during a five year period, and, of those who relapsed, two-thirds of those had multiple relapses.
The most important thing for the bipolar patient and his or her family to understand is that it is possible to do all of the right things (medication, therapy, diet, exercise, sleep, etc.) and still relapse. There is no clear understanding of why this happens. Sometimes stressors and difficult life events may lead to a relapse.
“There may be changes in the cellular level that cause cycling but their cause is unknown,” says Joseph R. Calabrese, MD, director of the Mood Disorders Program at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.
If bipolar symptoms worsen or return, the situation should be addressed quickly by the patient and his or her family. Many families develop a “relapse plan” in which there is a list of actions and agreements between the patient and another party about what will happen as a relapse reveals itself and progresses. Effective treatment at an early stage of an episode may help shorten and/or lessen the severity of an episode.
Patients who believe they are relapsing should contact their psychiatrist, therapist, family practice doctor, a trusted family member or friend, or even visit an ER for help as soon as possible.
The Villa Orlando and Pasadena Villa’s Smoky Mountain Lodge are adult intensive psychiatric residential treatment centers for clients with serious mental illnesses. We also provide other individualized therapy programs, step-down residential programs, and less intensive mental health services, such as Community Residential Homes, Supportive Housing, Day Treatment Programs and Life Skills training. Pasadena Villa’s Outpatient Center in Raleigh, North Carolina offers partial hospitalization (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (PHP). If you or someone you know may need mental health services, please complete our contact form or call us at 407-574-5190 for more information.