Chapter 8

Understanding Relapse Prevention

Relapse prevention means identifying your early warning signs, planning for difficult situations, self-care, and taking action to reduce the likelihood and severity of any setbacks.

Before a relapse people often experience changes in their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Knowing what to look out for can help catch these signs early and may prevent them from getting worse.

Using these steps will help you take action and plan for any relapses that might happen, reducing any effects on your daily life.

Early warning signs

Changes in thoughts, feelings and behaviours are examples of early warning signs, and usually indicate a relapse could happen.

Common early warning signs of relapse may include changes in sleeping patterns, lack of self-care, no longer taking medication as prescribed, irritability, low mood, increased self-criticism, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal, return of worries or preoccupations, difficulty keeping commitments, or no longer doing enjoyable activities.

You may feel nervous about identifying these warning signs as you don’t want to remember difficult times and would rather move on. However, learning from your past experiences and understanding your warning signs helps you take charge of your mental health and make informed decisions. This information may also be helpful for any friends, family and the doctor involved in your care.

It is important to:

1.   Identify stressful events or situations (including losses, anniversaries, life changes, or significant events)

2.   Prepare for these events

3.   Plan how you may be able to manage these

4.   Monitor your own signs and symptoms

Identifying your unique early warning signs helps you act early and practice any strategies you’ve found helpful. While these strategies may not always prevent a relapse, they will help to minimise the impact and length of time of any relapse.

To identify your warning signs, think back to times you’ve felt unwell.

Ask yourself:

When did I start to feel unwell?
What kinds of thoughts did I have?
How was I feeling?
Was there a change in my behaviour?
What were the things I said to myself?

Worksheet 8: My Early Warning Signs

This Worksheet will help you recognise your own early warning signs and how you could manage them.

Helpful Tips:
In addition to recognising your early warning signs, it is important to monitor them regularly. You might choose to use a diary, a mood chart or smartphone app such as Daylio to record your mood and symptoms.

Tracking your signs and symptoms over time will help you review your experiences and decide if and when you need to take action.

Recognising when to act will reduce your stress and the likelihood of experiencing a relapse. It is also important to review your coping strategies after experiencing early warning signs or a relapse to check if they were helpful for you.

Worksheet 9: Coping Strategies

This Worksheet helps you review how you manage any stressful situations/events. It also helps you to assess the effectiveness of your coping strategies. You may choose to do this as homework or together with your APMHA mental health clinician.

Other Resources
Downloadable Resources:
Smart Phone Apps:
  • MoodMission – Helps you learn new ways of coping with low moods and anxiety
  • Smiling Mind – Meditation Made Simple
  • ReachOut WorryTime – A reflective, interactive and fun way to prevent small issues from becoming big ones.