Friday, August 17, 2012

Early Warning Signs

Mental illness is episodic, so things get better and then things get worse and then things get better again. As we mentioned in the previous post on preparing a crisis plan, it's important to be aware of your loved one's early warning signs of a relapse so you can mitigate a full-blown crisis.

Looking at these early warning signs will help you, your loved one and his or her treatment providers minimize setbacks.

Generally speaking, it's hard for the people with the illness to fully recognize the warning signs. So often his friends and family will start to see problems first.  Here are some typical signs:
  • Increased irritability. 
  • More noticeable tension, anxiousness or worries.
  • Increased sleep disturbances (such as hearing your loved one being up all night and sleeping through the day).
  • Depression.
  • Social withdrawal in more extreme forms, such as refusing to leave his or her room even to eat.
  • Concentration problems (taking longer to do tasks, have trouble finding tasks, having trouble following a conversation or a TV show).
  • Decreasing or stopping medication or treatment (such as, refusing to go to the doctor or the case manager appointment, skipping the vocational program).
  • Eating less or eating more.
  • Excessively high or low energy.
  • Lost interest in doing things.
  • Poor hygiene or lost interest in the way he or she looks.
  • Saying that he or she is afraid that he or she is "going crazy." 
  • Becoming excessive in religious practices.
  • Feeling bothered by thoughts that he or she can't get rid of.
  • Feeling completely overwhelmed. 
  • Leaving bizarre voice mail messages, outgoing messages or writings.
Your loved one also may have other specific signs of relapse or crisis that she or he has told you about. Ask yourself as well:
  • Did any unusual changes in behavior take place in the weeks just before the last relapse?
  • Did your loved one do anything that seemed "out of character" just before the last relapse?
  • Have the same behaviors preceded other relapses? 
Next you move to activating a crisis plan.

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