Authored by Nexus Family Healing on February 25, 2020

The phrase isn’t uncommon. It is used so much that most people don’t know exactly what it means or if there is truly a cause for concern. According to Medical News Today, a “nervous breakdown and mental breakdown are dated terms describing emotional or physical stress that temporarily makes someone unable to function in day-to-day life.” 

The signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown “vary from person to person and depend on the underlying cause. Exactly what constitutes a nervous breakdown also varies from one culture to another.”Medical News Today lists these as the most common signs and symptoms of a nervous or mental breakdown1:

  • feeling anxious, depressed, tearful, or continuously irritable
  • feeling helpless, hopeless, and having low self-esteem
  • withdrawing or avoiding normal social situations
  • unregulated sleep schedule
  • unhealthy eating and hygiene
  • difficulty focusing or remembering the events of the day
  • feeling continuously emotionally drained and physically exhausted, often without cause
  • lack of motivation and interest in things
  • difficulty getting along with or tolerating other people
  • suicidal thoughts or thinking about harming oneself
  • moving or speaking more slowly than normal
  • frightening flashbacks, severe nightmares, and fight-or-flight symptoms, such as racing heartbeat, dry mouth, and sweating, when there is no threat or danger

A nervous breakdown may vary in severity and duration depending on the individual and situation. For example, “a less severe breakdown that leads to deterioration in function but not total loss of function may go on for some time before a person seeks help. A severe crisis, on the other hand, may be shorter in duration, while recovery and treatment take much longer.”The following are treatments and possible preventions presented by Medical News Today1:

  • seeking counseling, usually cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT
  • talking to a doctor about antidepressant, antianxiety, or antipsychotic medications
  • trying to reduce or resolve sources of stress
  • talking with friends, family, partners, and roommates about troublesome feelings
  • setting healthy hygiene, sleeping, and eating schedules, and sticking to them
  • creating a distraction-free sleeping environment to encourage quality sleep
  • avoiding the excessive use of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine

Medical News Today notes that “most people experience periods of extreme sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness from time to time, especially after very stressful events. But when someone becomes unable to perform day-to-day tasks, withdraws from society, or begins to consider harming themselves, they need to have medical help. Management medications and therapies exist to help treat most of the medical conditions associated with nervous breakdowns.” 1

If you are looking for help or have further questions about nervous breakdowns, reach out to your physician. If you are in immediate emotional distress, call 1-800-273-8255 24/7. To get general information on mental health and local treatment in your area, speak to someone Monday-Friday from 8a.m- 8p.m EST at 1-877-726-4727.

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