Early Warning Signs of a Bipolar Relapse or Oncoming Episode

Bipolar relapse explained plus signs and symptoms of a bipolar relapse for those diagnosed with bipolar disorder and their families and friends.

A relapse is said to occur when the symptoms of bipolar disorder worsen or when previous bipolar symptoms return. Many people have experienced one or more relapses of their illness. After a relapse, you may still experience persistent symptoms-which is different from worsening symptoms.

Before a relapse happens, people often experience changes in their symptoms or in some aspect of their behavior, thoughts or feelings. These changes are called warning signs and they are indications that a bipolar relapse may be imminent.

Signs of a Bipolar Episode

  • Feeling more tense or nervous**
  • Feeling that people are talking about me**
  • Having more trouble sleeping**
  • Change in level of activity**
  • Having more trouble concentrating**
  • Losing interest in things I usually like doing
  • Seeing friends less
  • Enjoying things less
  • Feeling more depressed (or suddenly grandiose)
  • Eating less
  • Having more religious ideas
  • Preoccupied with one or two ideas
  • Having trouble making sense when talking
  • Feeling like I was forgetting things more
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling like I was going crazy
  • Hearing voices or seeing things
  • Feeling that someone else was controlling me
  • Feeling badly for no apparent reason
  • Stopped caring how I looked
  • Having more nightmares or bad dreams
  • Feeling more angry over little things
  • Thinking about hurting myself
  • Feeling more aggressive or pushy
  • Feeling too excited or overactive
  • Having trouble relating to family
  • Having frequent aches and pains
  • Drinking more alcohol
  • Using more drugs (uppers, downers, LSD, marijuana)
  • Thinking about hurting someone else

** Universal Warning Signs

These signs are different for everyone. It is important to work out which signs may be relevant to you and have a plan of what to do should any of these signs of a bipolar relapse appear.


  • McFarlane, W., Terkelson, K., "New Approaches to Families Living with Schizophrenia." Institute, 62nd Annual Ortho-Psychiatric Meeting, N.Y., 1985.
  • Inner North Brisbane Mental Health Service, Warning Signs of A Possible Relapse

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 29). Early Warning Signs of a Bipolar Relapse or Oncoming Episode, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Last Updated: April 7, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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