A nervous breakdown, to say the least, is not something that anyone wants to go through. While it’s not a formal diagnosis, the term “nervous breakdown” is widely used to describe a period of extreme overwhelm that impacts a person’s functioning. A nervous breakdown is like a full system shutdown in many ways. Characterized largely by symptoms affiliated with anxiety and depression, a nervous breakdown often occurs when it all feels like too much. So, what are the signs of a nervous breakdown? What are the causes, and what can you do if it happens to you?
What Causes A Nervous Breakdown?
Several things can contribute to a nervous breakdown, and it’s often a combination of factors, such as multiple life stressors, at play. Potential causes include:
*Please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) if you or someone you know is facing abuse.
Someone may be at higher risk of a nervous breakdown if they live with an existing mental health condition. Life changes, such as a divorce, may also be a cause or contributing factor. Feeling alone or being unable to rest or take time off during stressful life situations makes it more likely that a person will reach this point, as both are affiliated with higher stress levels.
Understanding the symptoms of a nervous breakdown can help you understand what a nervous breakdown might feel like and identify if you or someone you love may need support. These symptoms should not be ignored, and the mind and body must get the rest they require.
The Symptoms Of A Nervous Breakdown
It is important to address the signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown – or what could be the start of one – as soon as you can. Here are some potential signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown:
Trouble sleeping can take a number of different forms. This might mean poor sleep quality, trouble falling asleep, sleeping too little, or sleeping too much. On its own, this is not necessarily indicative of a nervous breakdown. Trouble sleeping is a possible symptom of a number of different mental and physical health conditions. However, if it’s paired with other symptoms, this could be the case, and regardless, it is something to address with a medical professional, especially if the problem is ongoing.
When we are at our breaking point, it’s very common to feel irritable or agitated. A person undergoing a nervous breakdown may feel irritable or get irritated more easily. Mood changes, whether in the form of mood swings (for example, sadness to agitation) or a low or depressed mood, which may pair with symptoms such as loss of interest in activities, are also very common.
Excessive worry is a key symptom of generalized anxiety disorder, and it may also occur during a nervous breakdown. You might experience heart palpitations, racing thoughts, fearful thoughts, or even panic attacks.
The extreme stress or shock to the body and mind affiliated with a nervous breakdown can come with several physical symptoms. These may include but are not limited to body aches, fatigue, GI distress, high blood pressure, and headaches.
Difficulty With Self-Care
Someone experiencing a nervous breakdown might start to have trouble with self-care. For example, someone might have trouble bathing, brushing their teeth, or taking care of their hair. They may also experience difficulty keeping up with their obligations, such as showing up to appointments or remembering what they have to do at work or in their home life.
Becoming Socially Distant
You or someone you know who is facing a nervous breakdown may become distant from the people in their lives. Sometimes, this can pair with irritability. A person might push others away and may seem unlike themselves. It could also be that someone stops replying to text messages, showing up to hangouts or events, and so on.
What If You’re The One Who Needs Help?
If you’re the one who is worried about potentially having a nervous breakdown, recognizing the symptoms is a positive thing. When you recognize the signs that something’s off, it’s the first step toward getting the help you need. Whether the concern is a mental health condition, life stress, or something else, you must get the help you need and take steps toward self-care.
It’s also vital to note that you do not have to reach a breaking point to ask for help. When it comes to preventing a nervous breakdown, the best thing that you can do is to:
If you’re experiencing a nervous breakdown or think that you might be, contact your doctor. They may be able to refer you to a therapist, write a note for your workplace, or provide information about other treatment options if applicable. In some cases, a doctor may be able to prescribe medication for your symptoms. Make sure that you consult with your doctor before considering any medication options.
If you are looking for someone to talk to right now or need immediate support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “HOME” to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
Seeking therapy can help you address a nervous breakdown, recover from a nervous breakdown, and prevent future occurrences. In therapy, you will discover coping skills and ways to care for your mental health as a unique individual. Your provider should take your circumstances into mind.
If there are underlying concerns such as a mental health condition or trauma, a therapist or counselor will be able to help you address these concerns or find someone who can help you confront these concerns as well. If you’re seeking care, you can look for a therapist who practices near you or sign up for a reputable online therapy platform like BetterHelp. The BetterHelp platform makes it fast and easy to start working with a counselor or therapist. To get started, all you have to do is take a quick questionnaire, and you’ll get paired with a licensed provider. If you don’t like the first therapist or counselor you see, BetterHelp makes switching seamless.
Whether you want to talk about personal mental health, relationships, or something else, a licensed professional can help, so don’t hesitate to reach out to a provider in your area or take the first steps towards seeing an online therapist today.
Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:
What happens when you have a nervous breakdown?
How does someone act when they have a nervous breakdown?
What does an emotional breakdown look like?
How do I know if I'm having a breakdown?
How long does a nervous breakdown last?
What triggers a nervous breakdown?
What is an example of a mental breakdown?
Can you recover from nervous breakdown?
What is a nervous breakdown called now?
What do you do after a mental breakdown?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
What happens when you have a nervous breakdown?
The specific symptoms vary from person to person, but a few commonalities are seen between people facing nervous breakdowns. Typically, anxiety, high blood pressure, tense muscles, insomnia, racing thoughts, irritability, and mood swings will occur. In some cases, psychosis or hallucinations might be present. It feels like you are crumbling under pressure and starting to impact your ability to engage in daily life. Allowing symptoms to go on can cause them to worsen. A person experiencing a nervous breakdown may be unable to function and may experience the onset or worsening of a mental health condition such as depression, especially if they are predisposed.
How long does it take to recover from a nervous breakdown?
The duration of a nervous breakdown varies from person to person. Things may start to improve within a few days with help and changes such as time off work, if applicable, given the situation, but it is not uncommon for recovery to take months. For some, it may take longer. Sometimes, rest, therapy, and other forms of support or lifestyle modifications are enough to help. Other times, hospitalization or inpatient treatment might be required. If symptoms go on without getting addressed or a person continues to push themselves, they may become more severe, and it may take longer to recover.
What triggers a nervous breakdown?
Several factors play into what can trigger a nervous breakdown. Underlying mental illness can play a major role, but copious amounts of stress can also result in a health crisis. Losing a loved one or going through an extreme situation that causes traumatic stress triggers a nervous breakdown. While mental illness can certainly be a catalyst, major stressors in life can push a person over the edge, and factors such as substance use can also play a large role. Please contact the SAMHSA hotline at 1-800-662-4357 if you or someone you know might be struggling with substance use or a substance use disorder.
Family therapy, individual therapy, and other practices can help a person overcome breakdowns, and putting a support system in place can greatly improve a person’s mental health. With support, people can often create ongoing plans that meet their unique needs and match up with their situation to care for their emotional and psychological well-being moving forward.
How do I deal with a nervous breakdown?
The first step in dealing with a nervous breakdown is realizing that you aren’t alone. You must be able to recuperate and ask for what you need. Nervous breakdowns are serious, and it’s important to make your mental health the priority. There are times when a person may have to adjust their commitments at work or take time off. Getting help in the form of mental health therapy or counseling, support groups, and talking with the people in your life matters. Some people may require treatment or hospitalization, though this is not always the case. Ensure that you aim to reduce the stressors within your personal life and use care tips to keep your mind and body healthy. Consider attending family therapy to improve your relationships if they are being affected. Additionally, continue using self-care and stress management tactics even after things improve.
Can you fully recover from a nervous breakdown?
A nervous breakdown is a challenging thing to experience, but it is possible to recover fully. Some people may require therapy and general self-care, where others will require hospitalization or inpatient treatment. Again, the length of time that recovery takes may vary. Regardless, overcoming the stressors of a nervous breakdown and recovering from a breakdown itself while promoting positive mental health is more than possible.
What is the difference between a nervous breakdown and a mental breakdown?
The term nervous breakdown and mental breakdown are often used synonymously, but both are umbrella terms. These things manifest will vary from person to person, and the onset may be more rapid for some than others. Regardless, the symptoms a person is experiencing must be acknowledged and treated.
What are the warning signs of a nervous breakdown?
There are several signs that you may be heading towards a nervous breakdown, and spotting them earlier on may give you a better chance at preventing the breakdown. Some of the common warning signs of a nervous breakdown include increased anxiety or depression, abrupt changes in sleeping habits and mood, hallucinations, fatigue, changes in appetite, physical pain, brain fogginess, and breathing troubles. Spotting any of these signs should be a reason to reach out to a primary care physician as soon as possible. The mind-body connection is real, and many mental health concerns are affiliated with a greater likelihood of physical health concerns or conditions.
What do doctors do for a nervous breakdown?
Technically, the term nervous breakdown is not a medical term. When a doctor determines your symptoms and makes a diagnosis, it may be qualified as a general psychiatric or mental illness. It could also be that your specific symptoms are looked at and addressed. With that said, the treatment for a nervous breakdown can vary. A medical provider might refer you to a therapist or talk about other treatment options.
What is a psychotic breakdown?
A psychotic break refers to the onset of symptoms of psychosis or early warning signs of psychosis. These may include hearing or seeing things that aren’t there, withdrawing from people in one’s life, and having trouble sleeping. During what may be described as a psychotic breakdown, someone experiences intense overload and may lose touch with reality, whether on a large scale or a smaller one. This could be due to the onset of an illness such as schizophrenia and other related disorders, substance use, extreme stress, or something else.
How do you know if someone is having a psychotic breakdown?
Spotting the warning signs of psychosis before a full psychotic breakdown can help preserve the mental health of a person and prevent serious health issues such as substance abuse. Look for an overall decline in self-care, strongly inappropriate emotions or no feelings at all, flat affect, trouble thinking clearly, and suspiciousness of others. As for determining if someone is currently experiencing a psychotic breakdown, common signs are hearing or tasting things that others don’t, withdrawing from family and friends, and persistent thoughts or beliefs that can’t be put aside regardless of evidence. Getting care from a professional is essential if these symptoms arise. Being a support system for someone living through a psychotic breakdown is extremely important and can help a person recover their mental health.
What are the five signs of emotional struggle?
Five possible signs of emotional struggle and somebody going through traumatic stress are personality changes in an abrupt way, agitation or displays of anger, withdrawing and isolating from others, poor self-care, and hopelessness. These may pair with changes and sleep, appetite, anxiety symptoms, and a low mood. Worsening of substance use or starting to use substances may also occur.
What are the early warning signs of psychosis?
Some of the earliest signs and symptoms of psychosis are a withdrawal from family and friends, unusual thoughts or beliefs that cannot be dissuaded, trouble thinking clearly or focusing, worrisome drop in grades or work performance, and intense feelings or lack of feelings.
How do you know if you’re going insane?
Several mental health warning signs can indicate a person may be undergoing some form of mental illness. An overall feeling of spiraling out of control, becoming detached from reality, worrying or feeling depressed, sometimes even when things are going well, radically overpowering thoughts, and more are all signs of a possible mental health condition. It’s important to note that mental health conditions or disorders are very common and that having a mental health condition does not mean that you are “insane.” Many mental health conditions are highly treatable, and the appropriate care is out there.
How do I know if I’m bipolar?
Bipolar disorder needs to be diagnosed by a mental health professional. However, there are a few warning signs you can look for to determine when it’s time to see a doctor about your mental health. Bipolar disorder is identified by and diagnosed based on periods of depression and periods of mania or hypomania, so understanding the symptoms of a manic, hypomanic, or depressed episode may be helpful. Signs of mania may include feeling overly happy, agitated, or energetic, having a decreased need for sleep, talking fast, feeling restless, becoming easily distracted, having overconfidence in your abilities, and engaging in risky behavior are all signs. Signs of a depressive episode may include feeling sad or hopeless, withdrawing from family or friends, losing interest in activities you enjoy, appetite changes, fatigue, memory problems, frequent crying, or emotional numbness.
Does anxiety cause psychosis?
Although the connection is still being studied, research indicates that it is possible in some cases. Psychosis does not have a singular cause, but if you experience symptoms of psychosis, it is very important to seek medical care. Other possible causes may include but are not limited to substance use, schizophrenia and other related disorders, sleep deprivation, and extreme stress. Again, if you or someone you know is experiencing concerns related to substance use or a substance use disorder, please contact the SAMHSA hotline at 1-800-662-4357 for support, information about treatment, and other resources.