What Is a Relapse | Dealing with a Mental Relapse

A relapse is a return to old behavior after one has managed to overcome a struggle. It is a deterioration of health after an improvement. At one point or another, we will all deal with temporary setbacks and relapses, but this is the test life is giving us. Life is putting our new ways of coping to the test and we can overcome it by practicing positive ways of coping. We will not fail as long as we continue to get back up and learn what we were supposed to during a relapse.

—CHAPTERS—
6:24 – Dealing with a Relapse

—RELATED VIDEOS—
► Coping Mechanisms – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAc2vVBA5Fs

Table of Contents

    Introduction

    Hi everyone! This video is going to be about relapses. Such as what a relapse is in regard to your mental health, and just how common a relapse actually is. A relapse essentially means a deterioration of health after an improvement. So for example, a drug user may show signs of improvement and seek treatment and help, and actually be free from drugs for a period of time, and then they revert back to their past behavior. That is what a relapse is, and it can take many forms and happens to pretty much everyone that struggles with anxiety, depression, self-harm, addictions, whatever else. The truth is, relapses are not only common, but happens to pretty much everyone that has made progress and overcome struggles. A relapse can occur shortly after treatment begins, or even after years of being free from the problems. Even the severity can vary, in that it can completely make one revert back to past behavior, maybe even worse than it was before, or it could last only a short period of time.

    Your past self and past behavior is a reflection of you in the present, whether you realize this or not. So, if you were a heavy drug user in the past, that behavior will continue to stay in your life. Even if you manage to overcome the addiction, life will always be testing you by manifesting scenarios into your life where you can put your positive coping mechanisms into play. It’s a test life is giving you to cope properly and rise above it. But, relapses happen. The reason for this is because it’ll always be a part of you. It’s something you use to do and partake in, and there is no escaping it. You have memory of it, you know what it was like, and you know how it made you feel at the time. And while you’ve managed to overcome it, the thought is still in your subconscious on some level because it was something you use to do in the past. Your past and how you behaved tells a lot about you in the present. But, this doesn’t always have to be a negative thing since you can overcome the problems and rise about the struggles to cope positively.

    Let’s talk about why a relapse may happen. Perhaps one reason a relapse may happen early on is because the true issues aren’t being addressed. So, if someone had an addiction and severe anxiety due to past abuse they endured, that is their coping mechanism and what they are seeking treatment for. In order to overcome these issues, it’s not as easy as finding better ways to cope. While that is a part of it, the other major obstacle is the trauma they endured. Until they can face that and overcome it, they will continue to have some sort of problem coping with it.

    Relatedly, another reason has to do with all the problems being brought to the surface, making the person have a more difficult time coping. With the same example, the person has to address the abuse and trauma in order to overcome it so they can resolve the conflict. During the process of talking about the trauma, it’s like reliving it. Everything comes back to you as if it’s happening right now in the present. This can be unbearable to some. This too can cause a relapse since it becomes too much for the person to handle. This is also where someone may not only relapse, but also sink deeper into their problems. Perhaps the person in this example begins to develop even more anxiety and negative coping mechanisms, perhaps even going back to the drugs and doing them even more frequently. To them, it feel like nothing will ever get better and it feels like everything is going down and they are getting worse. This is very common during this part of the healing process.

    Next, let’s say years after recovery the person begins to go back to their old behavior. Why is this? Well, it could be due to triggers, or even insufficient coping mechanisms they are employing in their current life. Perhaps an event that takes place years later, perhaps similar or completely different from what they were dealing with in the past, causes them to feel the same way they did in the past when they didn’t have proper coping mechanisms and were abusing drugs and had severe anxiety. It doesn’t matter how different the situation is because it makes them feel the same as they did in the past. It brings back those memories to them. That’s the trigger. From there, they do not have coping mechanisms to properly handle the situation so they end up thinking more about abusing drugs, and the people they were involved with. These thoughts turn into a craving for it which turn into reverting to past behavior. They begin taking drugs again, developing more anxiety, and their health begins to deteriorate as they go back to how they were in the past. Until they can find a proper way to cope and address the behavior, they could very well be stuck back in a relapse as it gets worse. With that being said, how do you deal with a relapse? I’ll discuss that now.


    Dealing with a Relapse

    Dealing with a relapse has to primarily do with several factors. One of the most important one is coping mechanisms. I have a video dedicated to this so I’ll have an annotation and a link in the description to this video where I discuss some positive ways of coping. [Coping Mechanisms] The reason why this is crucial is because a relapse will happen when you are unable to employ efficient ways of coping with your problems, so you revert back to old habits that you are use to. It’s easier to slip back into old patterns than it is to develop new ones. So, while it may take some time to actually develop positive ways of coping with your problems, there will be times that this old thinking will come back.

    This brings me to the fact that relapses happen. This may seem simple, but it’s actually quite amazing how many people get worried when their past behavior comes back. It will come back and manifest in one way or another. But, here is how I view it. I view it as a test life is giving me. Going back to the example of the drug user, they’ve overcome the drug addiction and found better ways of coping and they discover that their best friends is a drug user. This person feels that urge come back and they give in. Instead of waiting it out for a bit and utilizing their coping mechanisms, they give in. That could trigger the relapse and they begin to do it even more. Or, they can practice their coping mechanisms, wait it out, and remove themselves from the situation and not be around it. If this person has overcome the addiction and is still constantly thinking about it, talking about it, craving it, and even associating with others that do it, that can be a serious problem as they have so much stimulation of drugs being poured into their mind. A relapse at that point can be pretty much inevitable.

    With that being said, just as you would cope with the problems to begin with, you have to get away from the things that are causing this relapse. With the example I just gave, your friend is into drugs, and perhaps you are around your friend quite a bit, maybe you work together and you see it and it tempts you. The truth is, you have to get away from this friend. At the very least, you can have a talk with your friend and tell them that you do not want to be around it because you have overcome a serious addiction and need time away so you don’t relapse. A true friend will respect your wishes. Someone who is not your friend will continue to do the drugs in front of you and/or even try to persuade you into doing them. If that is the case, then you need to get away from this person and realize that they simply are not your friend. You must do what is best for you, and that is distancing yourself from people, places, events, and anything and everything else that will trigger those thoughts of past behavior.

    And lastly, realize that there is no such thing as failure. Just because you have a relapse and go back into old behavior and thinking, doesn’t mean you cannot overcome it again and actually deal with it properly. The truth is, you got out of it once, so it’s possible to do it again. Keep trying and work on your problems so you can be free from those negative ways of coping. Don’t let it have a hold of you, or feel ashamed of yourself because only you can get out of it by rising above the negativity and not letting it control you.


    Conclusion

    So in conclusion, a relapse is a return to old behavior after one has managed to overcome a struggle. It is a deterioration of health after an improvement. At one point or another, we will all deal with temporary setbacks and relapses, but this is the test life is giving us. Life is putting our new ways of coping to the test and we can overcome it by practicing positive ways of coping. We will not fail as long as we continue to get back up and learn what we were supposed to during a relapse. I hope this video was informative and helpful. Thanks for watching!

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    Notes

    As someone who has personally dealt with various types of setbacks and relapses during my recovery process, I found it incredibly difficult getting back on track. Even with simple things I would implement in my life I would be excellent at it initially, then I would slip back into old, unhealthy habits. It made what I was trying to overcome or implement in my life so much more difficult to achieve. But, this didn’t mean that it was impossible.