Having a mental breakdown


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Some signs relate to a person’s mental state and how they are feeling, or changes in personality. However, physical symptoms are also common. Signs vary from person to person, and can depend upon the underlying cause.

People who feel they are having a nervous breakdown can:

  • feel isolated — disinterested in the company of family and friends, or withdrawing from usual daily activities
  • feel unable to concentrate — difficulty focusing at work, and being easily distracted
  • be moody — feeling low or depression; feeling burnt out; emotional outbursts of uncontrollable anger, fear, helplessness or crying
  • feel depersonalised — not feeling like themselves or feeling detached from situations
  • have hallucinations — vivid flashbacks of a stressful or traumatic event can be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder — you should discuss any hallucinations or flashbacks with a doctor or counsellor
  • feel paranoid — believing someone is watching or stalking you
  • have thoughts of self-harm — if you have thoughts of self-harm, get professional help immediately

Physical symptoms can include:

  • insomnia — when you have a lot on your mind it can be difficult to sleep, or sleep can be disrupted
  • exhaustion — difficulty sleeping or anxiety can make you feel exhausted and lacking the energy to face routine tasks
  • frequent illnesses — exhaustion can leave you susceptible to infections
  • headaches — headaches and dizzy spells
  • muscle pain — sore and stiff muscles, particularly in the jaw, neck or back from muscle tension
  • bowel problems — stomach cramps and irregular bowel movements
  • racing heart — feeling like your heart is racing, tightness across the chest or a lump in your throat, which can make it seem difficult to breathe (a panic attack)
  • sweats — hot or cold flushes and clammy hands

People who are experiencing a nervous breakdown may avoid social functions, call in sick for work and isolate themselves at home. They may not be eating or sleeping properly, and they may not look after their personal hygiene.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is experiencing a nervous breakdown, it is important to seek help and to see a doctor or counsellor.

Not sure what to do next?

If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to manage mental health issues, try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker and get advice on when to seek professional help.

The Symptom checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Includes bowel-related problems, such as diarrhoea and constipation, back pain, migraines, palpitations, breathing problems, disrupted sleep, loss of libido, impotence and, for women, a disrupted menstrual cycle.

Includes worrying all the time, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, out of control, guilty, confused, trapped and unable to know what to do next.

Includes mood swings, temper loss, preoccupation, inability to tolerate noise, withdrawal from ‘normal’ life (eg, stopping hobbies), inability to stop moving/fidgeting.

Going public

When a celebrity’s private suffering becomes common knowledge.

Stephen Fry walked out of West End play Cell Mates in 1995. ‘I would say now it was a breakdown. I don’t know precisely what it was. I did see doctors, both the ordinary ones and the psychiatric kind. They said it was a cyclothymic bipolar episode or something like that. That’ll do. But one might as well use the language of demonisation. There was a demon of something in me and it took a lot of getting out.’

Joanna Lumley on her 1970 breakdown: ‘I found everything just unbearable. I’d try to go shopping at Safeway or whatever and couldn’t go in, the thought of all the people in there. You’d have to talk to yourself aloud in your head, divide yourself in two and counsel yourself like a friend, so the one you knew would speak in a sensible voice would tell the other one the simplest task they had to do, and the reward would be to go out of the shop and go home.’

Brett Easton Ellis had a breakdown after the success of his novel Less Than Zero . ‘It was a sort of emotional exhaustion,’ he says now. ‘My mom came over, I started seeing a shrink, I got my medicine – kind of regulated myself.’

PJ Harvey had a nervous breakdown after the break up of her first affair in her early twenties. ‘I couldn’t do anything for weeks – little things like having a bath and brushing your teeth, I just didn’t know how to do it. I never want to go back there again.’

Alistair Campbell on his drinking and breakdown in the mid-80s while working on Today newspaper. ‘It was a nightmare recovering, trying to re-build my career, while trying to give up drinking. You learn what your priorities are and who your real friends are – and you can count those on one hand… I get letters from people who say, “I’ve had a nervous breakdown and it’s great that someone talks about it.”‘

Peter Mullan on breaking down during his final year in university: ‘I was working 15 hours a day, every day, for two months. Then something snapped. I started crying and didn’t stop for a week. I had three or four relapses in my twenties. It was very humbling. It was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. You realise there is a darkness within that you can’t always deal with.’

Spike Milligan: ‘If you’ve been through a breakdown, it’s like having been honed by a very fine Toledo blade.’

Bob Hoskins: ‘When I separated I had a nervous breakdown because walking away from two kids is a horrific thing. I started living in a kind of bubble, a bubble of grief, because I’d lost my family and couldn’t cope… I was having these long sessions with a psychiatrist, then going for a drink with my friend Verity Bargate. She used to say, “You’re telling the psychiatrist all your best plots. You should be doing it on stage.”‘

• The Mental Health Foundation information line is manned Monday to Friday, from 10am-6pm (020 7535 7420). For leaflets providing information about mental-health issues, such as depression, schizophrenia and anxiety, send an A5 sae to The Mental Health Foundation, 20-21 Cornwall Terrace, London NW1 4QL; or go to www.mentalhealth.org.uk.

Winona Ryder supposedly had one, as did Mariah Carey, Amanda Bynes, and a slew of other celebrities who spiraled out of control and ended up in the hospital. But what, exactly, was going on with these people—and could you be headed for a similar fate?

The answer is a bit complicated, since “nervous breakdown” isn’t a phrase that you’ll find written on a contemporary’s medical chart. In the past, it was used as a catchall diagnosis that could mean someone had one of any number of psychiatric disorders. The common thread is that whatever was going on rendered them unable to function normally, at least for a period of time.

Modern mental health professionals no longer use the vague phrase “nervous breakdown,” and their goal is to identify the specific issue (such as major depression, panic disorder, or schizophrenia, among other possibilities) that caused what they might refer to as an “emotional health crisis,” “mental health crisis,” or “mental breakdown,” says Heather Senior Monroe, MSW, LCSW, a social worker and director of program development at Newport Academy, a mental health treatment center. “Some experts classify a mental breakdown as a type of anxiety disorder,” she explains. “What’s important to understand is that such a breakdown is usually an indicator of underlying mental health problems that need to be addressed.” (If you’re a woman, you’re more likely to have these 4 mental health issues.)

“A mental breakdown is a period of mental illness during which intense feelings of depression, stress, or anxiety result in an inability to function in daily life,” Monroe adds. “The person suffering is emotionally overwhelmed. They might feel that life is hopeless, that they are ‘going crazy,’ and that they will never be able to get back to normal.”

MORE: 10 Silent Signals You’re Way Too Stressed

When you read about the latest celebrity breakdown, it might seem as if it came out of nowhere. Although it’s possible for someone’s mental health to go from perfect to rock bottom in an instant, it doesn’t usually work that way. (Even psychosis tends to have warning signs.) And if you get help when you’re just starting to falter, you have a better chance of avoiding a full-on crisis. Here, some indicators that warrant a call for help.

You have a mental health issue that’s not being well-managed.

Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images

“Anyone can experience a mental health crisis, but it is more likely when underlying mental health disorders are present,” says Monroe. So if you already have depression, anxiety, or another problem, take it seriously. See your provider regularly for check-ins, and be sure to raise a flag if you feel like your current treatment isn’t working.

Prevention Premium: 5 Myths About Stress You Need To Stop Believing

You’re abusing alcohol or drugs (perhaps prescription ones).

Don Farrall/Getty Images

Substance abuse and mental breakdowns often go hand-in-hand. You’ll need professional help to break your addiction and get your mental and physical health back on track. Watch for these 5 warning signs that you have an alcohol problem, and seek out a medical professional if you need help.

This is your body on alcohol:

Your life has been extra stressful lately.

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Maybe you were diagnosed with cancer, are going through a divorce, got fired, or lost a loved one. None of these things necessarily mean that you’re headed for a breakdown, but they do raise the risk. If you feel like stress is pushing you to the brink—perhaps you’re so worried that you’re hardly eating or sleeping—get professional help sooner rather than later. “In these cases, even someone who does not usually suffer from anxiety or depression can become overwhelmed to the point that they experience a mental health crisis,” says Monroe.

MORE: What It’s Like To Lose The Love Of Your Life—And Find Your Way Back From Grief

You’re having panic attacks or considering suicide.

Jutta Klee/Getty Images

“Panic attacks can be a warning sign, especially if they happen frequently within a short period of time. Mental breakdowns are often preceded by ongoing feelings of doom and worry, perhaps even suicidal thoughts, or by what’s known as ‘hyperarousal,’—feeling tense and overstimulated as a result of the nervous system going into ‘fight or flight’ mode,” says Monroe. (Not sure if what you’re experiencing is a panic attack? Here’s how you can tell.)

You feel numb.

Tara Moore/Getty Images

Some people on the cusp of a breakdown report not feeling much of anything. You might stop caring how you look, lose interest in activities you used to enjoy, and isolate yourself from family and friends. These are all signs of depression and possibly a major mental health crisis.

MORE: 7 Physical Signs Of Depression You Might Not Expect

Normal life feels unmanageable.

Caiaimage/Paul Viant/Getty Images

“Even small everyday tasks begin to feel like too much to cope with, and social situations seem overwhelming,” says Monroe. This feeling can come on suddenly or build up slowly over time, thanks to an “ongoing buildup of worry and stress.”

Since most mental breakdowns are stress-related, techniques such as meditation, exercise, and yoga can certainly help. (Plus, you can try these 9 things therapists do when they’re totally stressed out.) But if you’re truly headed into crisis mode, don’t try to fix it yourself or hope it will “just pass,” warns Monroe. “A trained mental health professional can help you identify the underlying conditions or the triggering event, and work with you to create an appropriate treatment plan.”

5 Signs You’re About To Have An Emotional Breakdown

From someone who is on the edge herself

Sep 6, 2018 · 6 min read

I could’ve titled this post 5 Signs You’re Actually Having A Breakdown but what good would that do you, dear reader? I doubt scrolling through a Medium post would be your lightbulb moment anyway.

Aha! After reading this, I realize I have truly lost my marbles. Thanks for making me aware, Sarah!

Mmm. Highly doubtful.

Like finding ‘the one’ or a bad oyster, when you know, you know.

A typical breakdown looks like no longer being able to tell up from down, left from right, where you are, how you got there, or who the hell that person in the mirror is.

Sounds like you? Congratulations. Pat yourself on the back. Not many people truly get to see themselves unravel like a dropped ball of yarn tumbling across the living room floor.

Now’s the time to call yourself a therapist and start making a scarf out of that life-yarn. Or maybe knit some socks. A nice sweater? Mittens? I dunno. You do you, boo.

As for those of you who can still find yourself on the map but might have lost all sense of cardinal direction, there is good news. With a little self awareness, crisis mode major can be avoided.

I’m speaking from experience.

Seven years ago, I lost my shit. Lost it. Couldn’t find it. Fully unraveled. Completely. The results were brutal. I massacred personal relationships with periods of extreme neediness followed by cruel dismissal. My inconsistency almost cost me my ability to graduate college. And I made a serious fool of myself through my erratic behavior — sobbing in public, screaming in public, drinking in public. Basically being a hot mess. In public.

I really hope everyone on this train was okay. The meme is fire though. #dadjokes

Looking back on that time in my life, I can see down the tracks that lead to my train wreck. Little warning signs were posted along the way which signaled my bad days and bad habits were compounding.

Thank the heavens for self reflection, amiright?

Fast forward to present day. I’m writing this as I’ve blown past most of the warning signs. I am still the kind of person who runs ten miles past the line in the sand before realizing I’ve gone too far. But with a few deep breaths and some practice in self awareness, I’ve looked up in time to see the warning lights and notice the sirens blaring as I approach the railroad crossing.

Just in time.

So here you go. From a girl on the edge to you, dear reader…

The five signs you’re about to have an emotional breakdown:

Not to go all D.A.R.E. on you but if you’re using snacks, drinks, or drugs to self-soothe at an unusual frequency and it’s starting to feel out of control, then you might be nearing a breakdown.

But you might just be having a bad day. A bad week. However, if it starts to feel like the Friends theme song and you’re approaching a month or even a year (definitely a year), it’s time for some introspection.

A breakdown happens, in my un-professional opinion, when you feel like you’ve lost control of so many things that everything feels out of control. And then, when something big comes along, you simply can’t even.

This is a breakdown. When you literally can’t even.

2.) Literally everything sucks

When something good or even great happens to you and your emotional reaction is similar to that of the Zoloft blob, I’d recommend pausing to ask yourself what’s going on.

I recently got a raise. A nice raise. I’d been complaining about my low salary for over a year. I should’ve been popping bottles and dancing like the red dress lady emoji. Instead I called my dad as I left work, told him the news, and went home to watch TV on the couch with my dog. Which is definitely a fine reaction but not for me. I celebrate the shit out of things. Queue the warning signals #trafficalert #accidentahead

Me when anything good happens while I’m having a breakdown.

This also applies to everyday things you used to like, still like in theory, but can’t muster the enthusiasm or energy to do.

3.) Making decisions is hard

While tied closely to ‘literally everything sucks,’ the inability to recognize what you want or need is a unique problem. I’m not talking the classic, What do you want for dinner? / I don’t know., conversation had by couples everywhere. I’m talking about feeling paralyzed or apathetic about big decisions in your life because you have no idea what you want the outcome to be or, worse, don’t care.

Noticing this warning sign in myself was my first major clue that something was more wrong than usual this go around. However, at this phase of a pending breakdown, I rarely stop at crippling indecisiveness. I charge straight down the tracks. The lights start flashing. Bad decisions ahead

Side note: again, not a professional, but I think some people live this way for a long time and it turns out to be clinical depression. This is something to get true medical treatment for. Glennon Doyle sings a beautiful version of Jesus Loves Me which goes, “Jesus loves me, this I know. Because he gave me Lexapro.” So if this is you, take care of yourself however you need to.

And in full transparency, I have consulted with my therapist(s) on whether or not I have a whole collection of mental illnesses I’ve been self-diagnosed with over the years. The list includes but is not limited to major depression, bipolar disorder, manic depressiveness, and sociopathy. I test negative for everything. Turns out I’m just human. And a Gemini.

4.) Being a crazy person (not to be confused with a Gemini)

When your behavior starts impacting those around you in a major way, pump the breaks. It’s fine to be a little grumpy, a little clingy, a little sad, a little human. Actually, it’s great. Please be those things in public so we all get a daily reminder that it’s good to feel.

But when you start lashing out, acting erratically, pushing and pulling on those around you things are at a tipping point.

Recognize too that there are levels of escalation to this. I can get real crazy to my partner and to my best friends. But when I can’t pull it back and end up showing that side to my parents, we’re getting close. And when I bring that energy with me to work, we are at the edge.

I recently told my boss I was going to quit with no job and become a bagger at WholeFoods…

5.) Distancing yourself

The final step, for me, in losing my mind is when I realize I’m totally out of control and I withdraw from the world completely.

It’s like I’m the Bad Genie from Aladdin and I know I’m wreaking havoc so I suck myself back into the lamp to avoid doing anymore damage.

Where we choose to go from here is everything. My hope for anyone in this phase is that, when you look in the mirror, you can feel compassion for the person looking back at you.

Know that the distancing phase is the result of a judgment you’ve placed on your own self.

What would it feel like to give yourself grace and let that go a little bit? What possibilities would be available to you then?

Today I gave myself grace. I gave myself permission to feel as lost as I wanted to. Letting go of the need to control my lostness calmed the clawing, clinging part of me.

In that calming, I was able to see the tools I’d had all along: things like a slow deep breath, writing, meditation. My tools. Independent of my friends, my family, my partner. Mine. Just what I need to stop the descent and start the slow climb back.

What’s next for this girl on the edge? Therapy. I see some things in myself that I need help to work through. Professional help. And deep breaths. The rest is just the practice we call living.

What is a Nervous Breakdown or Mental Breakdown ?

Nervous breakdown and mental breakdown are very outdated terms still used by the lay person typically describing emotional or physical stress that makes someone unable to function in day-to-day life.

Though once used as umbrella term for a wide range of mental illnesses, mental health professionals do not use the term “nervous breakdown” or “mental breakdown” or “emotional breakdown” to describe any specific medical or psychiatric condition. There is no such diagnosis in the DSM-V nor the ICD-10.

  • The symptoms of a so-called “nervous breakdown” vary widely between individuals.
  • Medically speaking, there is no such thing as a “nervous breakdown”.
  • Treatment for a nervous or “mental breakdown” depends on the cause or multi-causes and risk factors (i.e. etiologies).

Nonetheless, a so-called “nervous breakdown” remains as a presentation underlying many mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The signs and symptoms of what some people may still call a “nervous breakdown” depend on the underlying medical and/or psychiatric condition.

Diagnosis of a “Nervous Breakdown”

It is no longer a recognized medical term, so, technically, there is no way to diagnose using the term: “nervous breakdown” or “emotional breakdown” .

Doctors of mental health: Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists will try to identify contributing causes and/or medical problems that may be contributing etiologies to the so-called “nervous breakdown”. These doctors will ask questions about symptoms and signs, conduct a BioPsychoSocial examination, review an individual’s medical history, and order tests.

18 Common Signs and Symptoms

Since it is not associated with any specific medical condition, a nervous or mental breakdown does not have any defined symptoms aside from difficulty or inability to function “normally.”

What it takes for a person to be considered “fully functioning” differs across cultures, religions or belief systems, and even families.

However, there are 18 common signs and symptoms (some or all) that are often a reported by the lay person when they state they are having a “nervous or mental breakdown”:

  • Feeling anxious, depressed, fearful, irritable
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, despair
  • Negative ruminative binge thinking
  • Social withdrawal or avoiding normal social situations (i.e isolation)
  • Missing work, appointments, calling in sick
  • Dysregulated sleep patterns, sleeping too much (hypersomnia) or difficulty falling a sleep or staying a sleep (insomnia)
  • Loss of appetite, overeating, or unhealthy eating
  • Lack hygiene and grooming, often due to people forgetting or not being motivated to clean and groom oneself.
  • Difficulty focusing, impaired attention, and/ or remembering recent events or recent conversations.
  • Feeling frequently emotionally drained and physically exhausted
  • Impaired of motivation and lack of interest in things
  • Unable to get enjoyment or fulfillment from things that normally bring joy or satisfaction (i.e. anhedonia)
  • Unexplained general body aches and pains
  • Difficulty getting along with or tolerating other people
  • suicidal thoughts or thinking about harming oneself
  • Lack of interest in sex and changes in menstrual cycle
  • Moving or speaking more slowly than normal
  • Traumatic flashbacks, severe nightmares, and fight-flight-freeze symptoms, such as racing heartbeat, dry mouth, and sweating, when there is no threat or danger

In extreme or untreated cases, especially when related to mental health conditions associated with psychosis, symptoms may also include hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, and lack of insight.

Treatment, Intervention, and Prevention of a “Nervous BreakDown” or “Mental BreakDown”

There are a few things that may help reduce symptoms of emotional breakdown and physical stress. Additionally, most of the treatment option interventions for a nervous breakdown also help prevent the condition.

Common treatment and prevention strategies for a nervous breakdown include:

  • Seek psychotherapy with a Clinical Psychologist
  • Reduce, avoid, or resolve sources of stressors, such as conflicts at home or workplace demands
  • Deep breathing and meditation to support mental and physical relaxation.
  • yoga and tai chi that promote gentle stretching or movement coupled with controlled breathing
  • Exercise daily at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity.
  • Spend time outside in nature or finding hobbies that encourage going outdoors
  • Set up healthy hygiene, sleeping, and eating schedules.
  • Create a distraction-free sleeping environment to encourage quality sleep
  • Avoid the excessive use of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • Avoid junk food (processed food) and eat clean (fruits & vegetables).
  • Take multivitamin and drink plenty of electrolyte water and drink probiotics (e.g. Kombucha) daily.
  • Avoid the use of illicit drugs

Causes and risk factors of nervous or “emotional breakdown”

Anything that causes more emotional and physical stress than the body and mind can handle can lead to a nervous breakdown or trigger an underlying medical condition. They are causative and correlational MindBody.

There are certain situations, genetic factors, and experiences that are more commonly associated with nervous or mental breakdowns than others.

Causes and risk factors for “nervous break down” include:

  • extreme grief
  • traumatizing experiences
  • an abusive relationship
  • jobs involving high-stress situations
  • jobs associated with emotional burnout
  • family history of mental health conditions
  • severe personal isolation
  • traumatizing and unrelenting stress
  • severe social conflict, especially if impacting work and home life
  • severe or chronic medical conditions or physical injuries that also affect emotional health

When to See a Doctor who Specializes in Mental Health

It is a good idea to talk with a doctor (psychiatrist and clinical psychologist) who specializes in mental health anytime physical or emotional stress interferes with day-to-day life, routines, or activities. Early intervention is key. Prevention is also key.

However, often people experiencing so-called “nervous breakdown” are not able to recognize the extent of their symptoms or that they may need help.

Unfortunately, many people are reluctant to seek outside help for mental conditions out of fear that they will be judged (i.e. Stigma).

They may also think that what is happening to them is somehow their fault, or that there are no treatment options available. However, this is not true.

If a loved one, friend, or roommate is showing several of the signs of a “nervous breakdown”, they should be encouraged to seek mental health assessment by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist and be provided the support to do so.

Shawna Freshwater, PhD

Hi, I am Dr. Shawna Freshwater, a PhD licensed Clinical Psychologist, Neuropsychologist, and Holistic Practitioner. ** I provide Psychotherapy, Coaching, Healing, Diagnostic testing & Mental Health Check-ups. ** I meet the needs of my patients and clients that are confidential and convenient to their schedule. ** I offer Remote / Online secure interactive video conferencing to USA residents and International clients. ** I also provide Concierge services at your home, office, or private location of your choice if you reside in South Florida Major Cities. ***Please see my website for more information about my credentials and areas of expertise. www.SpaciousTherapy.com Thank you. Dr. Freshwater

A Psychotic Break vs. a Mental Breakdown: Comparing Symptoms and Treatment Options

Any sudden change in a person’s mental or emotional well-being is cause for concern. When you notice unusual signs or symptoms in a loved one, take them seriously and seek help. A sudden crisis can be confusing and scary, but it’s important to know that treatment and recovery are possible. Most often, the sooner a person can get clinical help, the better their prognosis will be.

As we’ve determined, an accurate diagnosis is the vital first step for anyone experiencing a mental health episode. Symptomatology is complicated, and it’s possible for the side effects of various disorders to overlap. So, it’s dangerous to make assumptions about what someone is experiencing. In fact, it’s better to assume that what they are going through can get worse at any moment. And professional attention should be an urgent priority.

In a comprehensive treatment environment, a personal life assessment accompanies the clinical diagnosis. Experienced clinicians understand that someone’s mental and emotional health is closely integrated with all areas of their life. Recovery after a mental breakdown or a psychotic break is as much about stabilizing the stressors and triggers in a person’s life as it is about treating the symptoms. And, even beyond stabilization, integrative treatment aims to prepare clients for healthier, more empowered long-range futures. It is entirely possible for someone to gain positive new coping skills and prevent another distressing episode that they are helpless to endure.

Our Treatment Program →

If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with complex mental health illnesses and co-occurring disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.

7 Signs of a Nervous Breakdown

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I’m having a nervous breakdown. You may utter this (or at least think it) when you’re overwrought and ready to snap. But what is a nervous breakdown, exactly? And what should you do when you feel like you’re about to fall apart?

It turns out “nervous breakdown” isn’t a clinical term. And it’s not considered a mental illness, says Erin Engle, PsyD, assistant professor of medical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious issue. ” is a situation in which a person cannot function normally because of overwhelming stress,” Engle says.

That stressor can be anything from a bad break-up or money issues to grief or psychological burnout. The symptoms will vary from person to person. “Our bodies and minds respond to stress in different ways,” Engle explains. But here are a few typical signs of a nervous breakdown:

RELATED: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

Symptoms of anxiety and depression

“Anxiety and depression are common, common reactions ,” says Engle. “Where you get into problems is when that stressor is ongoing and persistent, and the person’s coping resources are overwhelmed.” If you’re headed for a nervous breakdown, you might feel weepy, or even experience episodes of uncontrollable crying, says Engle. Some people suddenly struggle with self-esteem and confidence. “Feeling guilt is a big one,” she adds.

Sleeping too much, or not enough

A change in your sleep habits is another warning sign, says Engle. “Some people find that they go into sleep overdrive,” she says. “Sleep becomes an escape.” Others may develop insomnia because their brain is in overdrive. They may lay awake at night ruminating, she says, “mentally rehearsing situations over and over again that have no solution.”

RELATED: 30 Sleep Hacks for the Most Restful Night Ever


Extreme tiredness could also be a clue you’re stressed to the max. You might even feel weakness in your body, Engle says. Activities you previously handled with ease may become increasingly difficult. And things that used to bring you joy may lose their appeal. That includes sex, Engle adds. Loss of libido is commonly linked to stress.

Changes in appetite

“Maybe you’re not eating, or conversely, you might be overeating,” says Engle. The stress hormone cortisol can trigger cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods. What’s more, when you’re in the middle of a breakdown, you may be less motivated to prep healthy meals. “There’s less ability to care for oneself in the way one typically would,” says Engle.

Physical pain

Think headaches, or stomachaches. “For some people there might be a GI component,” says Engle, such as diarrhea or constipation. It’s no secret stress can do a number on your gut. It’s known to cause a variety of problems with digestion.

Brain fog

Are you having trouble concentrating? Or just feel like you’re not thinking clearly? There are often cognitive symptoms with a nervous breakdown, says Engle, which might include anything from difficulty with problem-solving and indecisiveness to a sense of disorientation and memory loss.

RELATED: 12 Unexpected Things That Mess With Your Memory

Trouble breathing

Keep an eye out for classic signs of anxiety too, such as tightness in your chest and rapid breathing. Taking quick, shallow breaths can ramp up the body’s stress response even more. A breathing exercise designed to slow down your breath can provide fast relief. But if you experience trouble breathing on a regular basis, it’s important to address the root of the problem.

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Ok, so you might be having a breakdown. What next?

Now is the time to prioritize self-care. Engage in healthy coping mechanisms that work for you. (Maybe exercise helps you blow off steam, for example, or your favorite hobby helps you unwind.) Talk with family members or friends you trust. And don’t be afraid to seek professional help: “I always encourage someone to seek out the chance to speak with, or meet with, either a therapist, a psychologist or a social worker—but a licensed mental health professional,” Engle says. “Going to get help is one of the most important things you can do.”

10 Tips to Mindfully Survive a Nervous Breakdown

written by Alexa Frey

A nervous breakdown is defined as: “an acute, time-limited mental disorder that manifests primarily as severe stress-induced depression, anxiety, or dissociation in a previously functional individual, to the extent that they are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis until the disorder is resolved”. A nervous breakdown can have many causes such as having too much pressure at work, overwhelming family duties, a divorce or death, being diagnosed with a terrible illness, a traumatic experience such as abuse etc. According to Helpline, the most common symptoms of such a breakdown are depressive symptoms, such as loss of hope and thoughts of suicide or self-harm, anxiety with high blood pressure, tense muscles, clammy hands, dizziness, upset stomach, and trembling or shaking, insomnia, hallucinations, extreme mood swings or unexplained outbursts, panic attacks, which include chest pain, detachment from reality and self, extreme fear, and difficulty breathing paranoia, such as believing someone is watching you or stalking you flashbacks of a traumatic event, which can suggest undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A nervous breakdown can last from a few hours to a few weeks. If your breakdown has been going on for a while, and you need some relief, the following ten tips are for you. They will help you not only survive this difficult time, but they might even help you grow from this difficult experience.

Practice Meditation

Try to meditate at least once a day. That’s if you can meditate. If you’re too deep in a hole, meditation might be impossible. Your heart might be beating too heavily in your chest, or you might be experiencing uncontrollable tremors which make sitting – and keeping your head upright – hard. If you can’t meditate, then don’t. But maybe, once a day, do try to give it a shot. Even if only for one minute. Anchoring your attention on sounds can be very helpful, if the feelings or sensations in your body are too distressing. Mindful walking too, can be very helpful, if sitting upright feels too torturous. If all this fails, you can always turn off the lights in your bedroom, and simply stare into the darkness – sitting or lying down. The sensory deprivation will hopefully help calm your mind and body. Also, when you do meditate, try to incorporate cultivation practices. Meditate on what you are grateful for in you life. When we’re in a hole, it’s good to remember the good stuff that’s still there in our life. Maybe that’s the beautiful tree outside of your bedroom window. Or you are grateful that you have best friends that support you. Also, try to give yourself compassion for what you are going through – give yourself all the love you need. Last, do practice anticipatory joy by bringing up things you look forward to in the future. Maybe Summer’s coming up and you’re looking forward to sunbathing. For more inspiration, find below a list of cultivation meditations.

Ask Friends for Help

One of the hardest things when having a nervous breakdown is that you feel lonely. Not because you don’t have any friends. But because we are so weak, that it can be very draining to be around people. Make sure that you do stay in contact with friends and family – even if you decide to be on your own. Use whatsapp (in moderation), if phone calls are too much and do ask your friends to come over – but let them know that they can’t stay too long. As you are going through a nervous breakdown, you will also notice which of your friends are friends that nurture you and which deplete you. You might have a friend that only texts you to let off steam. During conversations with this difficult friend use your mindfulness skills to notice how he or she makes you feel in your body. If this friend makes you feel tense, annoyed, sad, etc., then it might be time to cut down contact with him/her. As you are going through a nervous breakdown, you will also experience that some friends might just decide not to care, not to be there for you. That can be very painful, but also a great way to learn which of your friends are true friends and which ones aren’t.

Practice Self-Compassion

You want to get better. Every day. Obviously, nervous breakdowns aren’t fun. Also, there are many different reasons why people have nervous breakdowns – as mentioned above. Some nervous breakdowns like the one due to a work burnout, will most of the time, pass. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. However, other nervous breakdowns, might not pass as easily. Especially if the origin of the nervous breakdown stems from a chronic mental health disorder such as major depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Not only do such mental health disorders deplete and burn us out, they also often make it extremely hard to stay positive – a quality which in our society seems to be a must. However, how can one stay so easily positive if the very illness that one has been diagnosed with doesn’t allow a person to be positive or rational?

Whether we are in a breakdown due to a work burnout, a chronic mental illness, a death of a close one or another chronic illness, we can choose to treat ourselves with self-compassion. To be patient with ourselves, to allow ourselves to be angry, anxious or depressed and to give ourselves all the love that we have.

Common Humanity

When we’re going through a breakdown, we might feel very lonely. Alone in our room, we might feel like we are the only one that’s going through a hard time. Especially when we look through our window onto the street, and everybody else is going about their day you might feel like life is passing by you and you’re missing out big time (Facebook newsfeed will be the worst!). In those moments, remember that you are not alone. There are many other people out there, right now, who go through a difficult time. Even though it seems like you’re alone, you are not. Search the internet for stories of other people who have went through hard times in their life. Read their words and find out what deep wisdom they have learned by surviving such a difficult time. Ask friends and family for their stories. Remember: you are not alone. We are all in this together.

Listen to your Body

When we are in the midst of a nervous breakdown, it is important to listen to our body. We may feel very sad or even depressed and that can make us feel sleepy (especially if we’ve been prescribed tranquilisers). Many people experiencing a nervous breakdown can also feel extremely exhausted. It’s important to give our bodies the rest they need. However, do listen to your body for signs of oversleeping. Too much sleep can cause dizziness and brain fog, which we want to avoid at all costs. Also, make sure that you go outside once a day if possible, for a walk in nature. However, do make sure that you choose a path that’s not too steep or too long and always be aware of how far it is to get back to your home. You don’t want to end up exhausted in the woods. If going for a walk seems like too much, try some YouTube exercise videos. Yoga with Adriene has a few easy and relaxing ones.

Reduce Technology

Having a nervous breakdown, we often feel like everything is too much. Sounds are too loud and laptop screens might feel too bright. This is why it can be helpful to keep technological use to a minimum. Order a hard copy book and immerse yourself into a story, which will make you feel good inside. The pages – just black and white – will help calm your mind. Audiobooks can also be great (look for “Catcher in the Rye” on YouTube). Close your eyes and listen. Just listen. You will notice that when your mind drifts off, you will quickly come back to listening – after all, you don’t want miss the plot. This will give you a break from the endless ruminating and worrying. Also, try to use Facebook and Instagram as little as possible. The endless scrolling won’t make you feel better, and trust me, if you see all the oh-so-happy lifes of your friends, while you can’t get out of bed, will not help. If you do watch a movie, choose one that doesn’t make you too anxious or sad. Instead choose something calming and/or happy!

Communicate your Needs

Going through a nervous breakdown, we don’t have the energy that we usually have. It might be hard for us to pay those bills, clean our home, and complete other important tasks. In times like these, we need help from our friends and family. However, not all of us are good at asking for help, and not all the friends that we have are selfless enough to offer help. During a breakdown we already feel fragile enough, so having to feel disappointed because a friend lets us down, should be avoided at all costs. Thus, go through a list of all your friends in your mind and pick the ones you think, will be willing to support you. Let those angels one by one know about your situation and kindly ask for their help. Also, if they say or do things that might hurt or annoy you, do let them know in a gentle way. Not everybody knows exactly how to deal with someone in such a difficult situation. But most are willing to listen and learn.

Dropping into the Present Moment

During a nervous breakdown, we spend a lot of time worrying about the future. Will I ever get better? What if things get worse? Or we ruminate about the past. Why did I not take better care of my health? I should have eaten healthier. Why didn’t I go see the doctor earlier and ignored the all the signs? It is natural to think about the future and the past. But especially during a nervous breakdown this tendency can deplete and exhaust us even more. Apart from that, if you pay close attention there are actually some positive, or at least a few emotionally neutral moments, even during a breakdown. Try to become as present as you can in those moments by connecting with your senses. Say you’re having a bath, notice the warm water touching every part of your body. Notice the scent of the bath oil. Turn off the light and simply listen to the sounds that emerge out of the silence. Become present and know, that in this moment, everything is ok. In this tiny moment, nothing is wrong. It’s just you in a warm bath tub. That’s it. Everything’s ok. Now.

Seek Medical Help

In the midst of a breakdown, all we want is to just stay in bed (and sleep). We want to hide from the world. We might feel physically really weak, we might experience awful social anxiety which prevents us from leaving our house, or we might just feel too depressed to leave the bed. We might hope, that if we just give things a bit of time, that we’ll feel better soon. While for some of us that might be true, most of us will need professional help. Your doctor might prescribe you Xanax to help you get you out of the worst anxiety, anti-depressants can get you out of the depression and a therapist can help you through speaking therapy (try to find one who incorporates mindfulness). Know, that you do not need to get through this in your own. There’s plenty of help!


I wish to end this article with something really legit positive about going through a breakdown. Now is the time, to indulge in self-care. Try to let go of guilt, and just give yourself everything you need. If you can afford it, order a massage therapist to your home as often as you can. Buy yourself fresh flowers once a week to put next to your bed. Go on Youtube and listen to your favourite teenage songs and sing along if you have the strength for it. Watch all the movies (in moderation) that you’ve always wanted to watch but never had time to. Have as many warm baths as you can. Meditate and use cultivation practices to feel good inside. Grab a pen right now, of all the good stuff that you can still do and go for it!


Gratitude Meditation

Love Meditation

Animal Affection


Cultivating Happiness Workshop

Self-Compassion Workshop

8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

What Does It Mean to Have a Nervous Breakdown?

The “nervous breakdown” is getting media attention this month. Recent retrospective accounts of the Apollo 11 moon landing have mentioned astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s “nervous breakdown” in the aftermath of his return to Earth. Last week, a former head of MI6 — the famed British intelligence service — told the BBC that his nation was undergoing a “political nervous breakdown” as it continues to grapple with Brexit.

Most people get the gist of what a nervous breakdown is. But the condition’s borders have always been ill-defined. Even calling a nervous breakdown a “condition” is a bit of an overreach. “The term has been around forever — it was used when I was a kid — but I don’t think it’s ever been a formal diagnosis,” says Michelle Newman, a psychologist and director of the Laboratory for Anxiety and Depression Research at Penn State University.

Newman says the concept of the nervous breakdown exists in a kind of gray area. It does not have accepted diagnostic criteria, and the term isn’t used by psychologists or psychiatrists. (It’s also completely distinct from a “psychotic break,” which refers to the kind of psychotic episodes associated with conditions like schizophrenia. Symptoms can include delusional thoughts, hallucinations, and paranoia.) But non-doctors often use “nervous breakdown” to describe a person who has disconnected in some way from their normal life due to a buildup of stress or anxiety. “I also think it’s used by the media as a catchall to describe a celebrity who’s sort of lost it or become dysfunctional as a result of some issue, whether it’s anxiety or depression or psychosis,” she says.

While a nervous breakdown is not a diagnosable condition, it does have some defining characteristics, according to experts. The most common one is that a person experiences some lapse in their ability to function as they normally do, which can cause them to bail out of their usual work, social, or family obligations. “Someone is overwhelmed with something — stress or anxiety or depression — to the point that it interferes with their day-to-day living,” says Craig Sawchuk, a professor of psychology at the Mayo Clinic.

Sawchuk mentions behaviors like skipping work for one or more days, “disengaging” from friends and family, and/or shutting oneself up at home as commonly associated with a nervous breakdown. Basically, a person reaches a point where they require an unplanned time-out from their life.

The other common components of a nervous breakdown, Sawchuk says, are a mix of emotional, cognitive, and physical symptoms. Emotional symptoms could include feelings of intense stress, anxiety, fear, irritability, guilt, or some combination. “Cognitive symptoms are things like racing thoughts, not being able to focus, experiencing worry or rumination, or a tendency to think or expect the worst,” he says.

There may also be “raw” physical symptoms that are related to the classic fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system responses. “So a pounding heart, shortness of breath, or feeling tense to the point of light-headedness,” he says.

Many of these symptoms may sound similar to a panic attack, which is a diagnosable condition. And Sawchuk says there’s definitely some overlap between panic attacks and nervous breakdowns. “A panic attack could be layered on top of a nervous breakdown,” he says. “But one way of perhaps differentiating the two is that, with a panic attack, the experience is very brief and very intense, whereas a nervous breakdown is more persistent or continuous.”

A panic attack typically comes on and peaks within 10 minutes — after which it starts to subside, says Newman. “People will say, ‘I’ve been having a panic attack for the last three days,’ but that’s not a panic attack,” she says.

Just as the definition of a nervous breakdown is hazy, its causes are also hard to pin down. But Sawchuk says life events or challenges that are uncontrollable and unpredictable are the ones he associates with a “vulnerability” for a nervous breakdown. “These would be major life events like a disease diagnosis, or the sudden loss of someone close to you, or the sudden loss of a job,” he says. He also mentions a lack of financial or social resources, a past history of mental health problems, or chronic stress and anxiety as risk factors for a nervous breakdown.

“But reality is always in the eye of the beholder,” he says. A person may have none of the vulnerabilities he mentions, but they could still suffer a nervous breakdown if their perception of reality and its challenges becomes overwhelming.

What should someone do if they experience a nervous breakdown — or if they think they’re headed for one? Sawchuk says if a person’s symptoms are at a “low level of intensity,” mental health apps that teach relaxation techniques — such as mindfulness training — are low-cost and effective options. Exercising, eating a proper diet, getting enough sleep, and spending time with friends can also help slow or reverse the buildup of symptoms that can lead to a nervous breakdown.

“If people are somehow impaired by their symptoms” — meaning their life is being harmed by what they’re dealing with — “the next level of treatment could be some combination of psychotherapy with or without pharmacotherapy,” he says.

The details of what makes therapy effective in a breakdown scenario depend entirely on a person’s experiences and symptoms. But Sawchuk says cognitive behavioral therapy can help people manage anxiety and stress in the “here and now,” and that drugs like antidepressants could also be useful. If someone’s nervous breakdown is severe, he says some form of inpatient or outpatient rehab could be helpful.

In the end, the best way to think about a nervous breakdown may be as a confined event, rather than as an ongoing issue or disorder. For any number of reasons, someone “just loses it,” Newman says, and that causes distress or interference in their life.

Nervous Breakdown

What is nervous breakdown?

A nervous breakdown refers to an acute attack of anxiety that disrupts your daily life. Nervous breakdowns are part of a family of mental disorders known as anxiety disorders. Nervous breakdowns can happen when you are experiencing sudden, extreme, or prolonged stress. When a nervous breakdown happens, you may feel like you lose control of your feelings and give in to stress, anxiety, or worry.

Symptoms of a nervous breakdown include feelings of worry, nervousness, fear, anxiety, or stress. They can also include sweating, crying, fast thinking, muscle tension, trembling, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, irritability, and insomnia. Unlike panic attacks, which can happen suddenly and without apparent reason, nervous breakdowns are usually related to some sort of stress.

The cause of a nervous breakdown is usually an excessive stress response by the body. They can also result from a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters, substances that control brain and nerve signaling. Nervous breakdowns can happen to anyone, but are more likely if you have a personal history of anxiety disorders or if you are experiencing a period of high stress in your life.

Treatment for nervous breakdowns may be as simple as modifying your lifestyle to include more sleep and relaxation. Therapy, such as talk therapy, may also be helpful when confronting stressful periods of your life or stressful memories. In some cases, medications may be required to help you cope with your anxiety. With the use of therapy and medications, nervous breakdowns can usually be avoided or managed.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as thoughts of self-harm or suicide, inability to care for your basic needs, or thoughts of harming others.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for an anxiety disorder and symptoms persist or worsen.

What are the symptoms of nervous breakdown?

Symptoms of nervous breakdown include negative feelings, such as feelings of nervousness and stress. Nervous breakdowns usually correspond to a period of high stress in your life, or a time when you feel like you just can’t take any more.

Common symptoms of nervous breakdowns

You may experience nervous breakdown symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times any of these nervous breakdown symptoms can be severe:

  • Crying
  • Dizziness
  • Fast-paced thinking
  • Feelings of worry, fear, anxiety or stress
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Rapid breathing (tachypnea) or shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Sweating
  • Trembling

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, nervous breakdown can be a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms including:

  • Inability to care for your basic needs
  • Thoughts or self harm or harming others

What causes nervous breakdown?

Nervous breakdowns are caused by your body’s stress response. In some cases, your body reacts inappropriately to stress, or you are faced with so much stress that your body cannot react appropriately. In these cases, you can feel excess anxiety that can lead to a nervous breakdown.

Nervous breakdowns can happen because of abnormally stressful situations or long-term high stress levels. They can also result from certain medications and substances. In most cases, however, nervous breakdowns are related to an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders that can lead to nervous breakdown

Common anxiety disorders that may lead to nervous breakdowns include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Other causes of nervous breakdown

Nervous breakdowns may also result from a variety of other situations including:

  • Certain medications
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Long-term stress
  • Recalling stressful memories
  • Stressful events

What are the risk factors for nervous breakdown?

A number of factors increase the risk of having a nervous breakdown. Not all people with risk factors will have a nervous breakdown. Risk factors for nervous breakdowns include:

  • Family history of anxiety disorders
  • Inadequate sleep and relaxation
  • Ongoing stress such as stress from work
  • Personal history of anxiety disorders
  • Recent illness or injury
  • Recent stressful life event such as divorce or financial problems
  • Sense of inadequate support from others
  • Serious financial concerns (bankruptcy, foreclosure)

Reducing your risk of nervous breakdown

You may be able to lower your risk of a nervous breakdown by:

  • Avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • Avoiding caffeine
  • Breathing deeply when you feel stressed or anxious
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Practicing relaxation techniques
  • Seeking counseling for stress and stressful life events

How is nervous breakdown treated?

Nervous breakdowns may be treatable by lifestyle modifications such as practicing regular relaxation or learning breathing techniques to practice when you feel stress coming on. In some cases, however, especially when nervous breakdowns are related to an anxiety disorder, medication may be required to treat your nervous breakdown. Therapy, such as talk therapy, is also helpful for many people.

Treatments for nervous breakdown

Treatments for the stress and chemical imbalances that can lead to nervous breakdowns include:

  • Lifestyle modification, including relaxation techniques, eliminating certain substances such as caffeine from your diet, and scheduled sleeping

  • Medications, such as antianxiety medications or antidepressants, to address chemical imbalances

  • Therapy such as talk, cognitive or behavioral therapy

What you can do to lessen the severity of a nervous breakdown

In addition to following the treatment plan developed by your health care providers, you may be able to lessen the frequency and severity of your nervous breakdowns by:

  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and drugs

  • Getting counseling for stress management

  • Getting regular exercise

  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation

  • Sleeping regularly

Complementary treatments

Some complementary treatments may help some people to better deal with nervous breakdowns. These treatments, sometimes referred to as alternative therapies, are used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments. Complementary treatments are not meant to substitute for traditional medical care. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are consuming nutritional supplements or homeopathic (nonprescription) remedies as they may interact with the prescribed medical therapy.

Complementary treatments may include:

  • Acupuncture

  • Massage therapy

  • Nutritional dietary supplements, herbal remedies, tea beverages, and similar products

  • Yoga

What are the potential complications of nervous breakdown?

A single nervous breakdown may not have any complications. You may be able to treat your nervous breakdown with lifestyle modification and counseling. In serious cases, however, nervous breakdowns can lead to the development of a more severe disorder. Complications of untreated or poorly controlled nervous breakdowns can be serious. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of nervous breakdown include:

  • Absenteeism from work or school
  • Depression
  • Development of an anxiety disorder such as a phobia
  • Embarrassment
  • Social isolation

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