Anxiety relapse (A comprehensive guide)

In this blog post, we will discuss what an anxiety relapse means, how to prevent it, what may trigger it and when you should consider looking for professional help. 

Anxiety Relapse: understanding what it means

An anxiety relapse can be defined as the regression into old anxiety-related habits and behaviors, after a temporary period of improvement.

When someone is having an anxiety relapse (anxious behavior), they tend to behave once more as they used to before treatment.  
Having an anxiety relapse isn’t something to be ashamed of, in fact it is something that tends to happen more often than you think to people who are receiving treatment to overcome their anxiety disorder.

How to prevent an Anxiety Relapse

Think about how well you are doing after investing so much effort in following a treatment plan, either through psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both.

Are you willing to allow anxiety to control your life again? Or having an anxiety relapse?

If you answered “No, I am not willing” then you are heading in the right direction.

What kind of useful tips can you use in your day to day routine?

Well, we will discuss a few useful tips but by no means is this intended to be a treatment plan or option, since there should be a mental health professional involved in the assessment for your specific case and provide you with the best treatment options.

TIP #1: Practice 

When going to psychotherapy you start gaining powerful tools to fight your anxiety symptoms.

The main idea here is to practice every time you have the chance.

This is just like when you are learning a new skill like reading, riding a bike or playing an instrument. Remember, practice makes perfect! 

But, you may be wondering “But How?”.

Simply start by planing the new skills you’d like to learn and practice them during the week.

You could try breathing exercises, exposure (gradually) to the source of your anxiety or meditating. 

Additionally, if you feel like it is too much for you to handle on your own, get family and friends to help you achieve your weekly goals.

TIP #2: Recognizing warning signs

Here, it is necessary to make a list of the things that trigger your anxiety.

This could be being under stressful or demanding situations at home or work, arguing with someone you care about, important life changes such as your wedding, childbirth or a death in the family.

Subsequently, make a plan to establish different strategies to cope with your anxiety symptoms. 

TIP #3: Challenge yourself!

The main idea is to have a “work in progress” mentality.

This means,  thinking of ways to work on yourself and improve every time you can, and more importantly believing you can actually change your current situation.

The probability of an anxiety relapse is lower if you are constantly working and challenging yourself. 

TIP #4: Learn from mistakes

It is normal to give in to your anxiety or making mistakes.

However, if you start monitoring your behavior and paying close attention to your thoughts it can prepare you for next time, making it less likely to have an anxiety relapse.

TIP #5: Don’t give up!

It is easy to get discouraged or simply stop trying because you feel you have thrown away all the good work by letting your anxiety take over.

Instead, replace those thoughts of failure and defeat for something like: “I have achieved so much already!” or “I know I can do this”. 

TIP #6: Don’t be so hard on yourself, this takes time!

Remember, you are battling with a mental illness and it can be really frustrating, overwhelming and can cause even more emotional distress.

If you find yourself having a lapse, don’t stay there, feeling bad about yourself. Just pick up the pieces and start again. 

TIP #7: Take the time to reward yourself

 Everyone goes through ups and downs, so make sure to take the time to reward yourself when you are working hard and putting all your energy and effort into fighting your anxiety.

Think it twice: stopping antidepressant medication

If you are considering or planning to stop your prescribed antidepressant medication, you should consult with your physician first.

Research has confirmed that the probability of an anxiety relapse is higher after stopping the antidepressant medication. 

This is supported by one research study that concluded that about one-third of anxiety patients relapse after stopping the medication. 

Another study concluded that up to 1 year of follow-up, patients who discontinued their medication had higher relapse rates than the ones that continued their drug treatment. 

Additionally, if you suddenly stop your medication without medical supervision, this could be very detrimental since you could experience sudden moderate to severe anxiety symptoms that can lead to hospitalization.

Why is this post about anxiety relapse useful?

This anxiety relapse blog post is useful because it provides a better understanding of what anxiety relapse means, useful tips to prevent it and risk factors that could contribute to triggering an anxiety episode.

Please feel free to comment on the content or ask any questions in the comments section below!

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) of Anxiety relapse

Does anxiety go into remission?

Remission of anxiety can happen in time, as you grow older and age.

When you get to a certain age you come to know yourself better and this will help you reduce your anxiety levels.

What is a relapse in mental health?

In mental health, the term relapse can be defined as a “setback” into the progression of your treatment.

These could lead to being hospitalized or other serious major consequences such as being depressed and incur in self-harm behaviors.

Can antidepressants stop anxiety?

Antidepressants will not stop anxiety but can help relieve and reduce some of the symptoms.

Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor could prescribe drugs from the Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) category but you need to be aware they come with side effects such as nausea, insomnia and/or sexual dysfunction.

What triggers anxiety?

Triggers of anxiety come in various forms and situations (e.g.alcohol consumption, not getting enough sleep, skipping meals).

However, experiencing stress during long periods of time can lead to long-term anxiety which worsens the symptoms, as well as causing other health problems. 

Does anxiety worsen with age?

Anxiety may get worse as age increases since we tend to become more anxious due to stress-related situations we endure on a daily basis.

Also, an anxiety disorder is a life-long condition and won’t go away, and if not properly treated can get worse over time.

The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.

Want to know more?

  1. Anxiety UK: Relapse prevention booklet
  2. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Relapse Prevention for Depression and Anxiety
  3. Improving Outcomes and Preventing Relapse in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  4. CBT for Anxiety: A Step-By-Step Training Manual for the Treatment of Fear, Panic, Worry and OCD
  5. Too Much, Not Enough: A guide to decreasing anxiety and creating balance through intentional choices


Psychiatry Advisor: Risk of Anxiety Disorder Relapse After Discontinuing Antidepressants

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

MDedge Psychiatry

Psychiatry Advisor