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How to Identify and Treat the Signs and Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown

Having a nervous or mental breakdown is a term that is used to indicate a period of extreme mental distress or distress. Your ability to function in your daily life is severely impaired throughout that time.

Nervous breakdown was a word that was previously used to describe a wide spectrum of mental conditions.

However, although the phrase “nervous breakdown” is no longer widely used in the medical profession, it is still considered an indication of an underlying mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A nervous breakdown’s specific characteristics vary from person to person and are dependent on the underlying medical condition that is causing it.

Symptoms of a nervous breakdown

Mental illness

When you are going through a breakdown, you may encounter physical, psychological, and behavioural manifestations. The indications and symptoms of a nervous breakdown differ from one person to another. The underlying cause of your symptoms can also have an impact on the symptoms you feel.

Since the term “nervous breakdown” is no longer used in the medical field, a number of symptoms have been employed to characterise a nervous breakdown in order to avoid confusion. These are some examples:

  • Anxious, depressed, tearful, or irritable.
  • feeling emotionally and physically exhausted.
  • experiencing agitation and muscle tension.
  • sleeping too much or too little.
  • having unexplained, general aches and pains.
  • trembling and shaking.
  • feeling helpless, hopeless, and having low self-esteem.
  • moving or speaking more slowly than usual.
  • withdrawing, or avoiding routine social situations.
  • frequently calling in sick to work or missing appointments.
  • neglecting or forgetting to eat or wash.
  • lacking motivation and interest.
  • having difficulty getting along with or tolerating other people.
  • losing interest in sex.
  • having difficulty thinking, focusing, or remembering.
  • having physical indications of a fight-or-flight response — such as dry mouth and sweating — when there is no threat.
  • having cardiovascular symptoms, such as a racing or irregular heartbeat.
  • experiencing more frequent infections, as stress can affect the immune system.
  • experiencing changes in appetite and weight.
  • having gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • having suicidal thoughts or thinking about harming oneself.

Psychosis, which can include hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, and a lack of insight, affects some people.

Causes of a nervous breakdown

When stress becomes too much to bear, a person may experience a nervous breakdown. External factors can contribute to stress. Among them are the following:

  • prolonged work pressure.
  • current traumatic event, such as a family death.
  • severe financial problems, such as borrowing.
  • a significant change in one’s life, such as a divorce
  • Inability to relax and trouble sleeping
  • serious health conditions.

Acute stress disorder(ASD) is one mental health condition that could be implicated . ASD is a stress reaction that happens 3 days to 1 month after a traumatic experience, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. A doctor may diagnose PTSD if it lasts more than a month.

Risk factors

A person’s risk of having a nervous breakdown may be increased by some existing conditions. Among them are:

  • personal history of anxiety disorders
  • family history of anxiety disorders
  • recent injury or illness that makes daily life difficult to manage

Treatment and prevention

  • receiving counseling — usually cognitive behavioral therapy, which is often called CBT
  • talking to a doctor about antidepressant, antianxiety, or antipsychotic medications
  • taking steps to reduce or resolve sources of stress, such as conflicts at home or workplace demands
  • practicing deep breathing and meditation exercises to support mental and physical relaxation
  • doing activities, such as yoga and tai chi, that promote gentle movement or stretching and controlled breathing
  • getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, broken up into sessions of around 20 minutes a day
  • spending time outdoors, walking or doing a hobby
  • talking with friends, family, partners, and roommates about troublesome feelings
  • waking up, eating, and exercising on a consistent schedule
  • seeking out local or online support groups for people with similar experiences
  • creating a comfortable home environment that encourages quality sleep
  • limiting the intake of caffeine and alcohol
  • avoiding tobacco and recreational drugs
  • seeking treatment for any mental or physical health conditions


There is no way to identify a nervous breakdown because it is not a recognised medical term.

A person who is overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, or who is unable to carry on with their everyday activities, should seek medical care.

The doctor will attempt to determine whether there are any variables or medical issues that are causing or contributing to the issue.

They will accomplish this by:

  • asking about symptoms and lifestyle factors
  • performing a physical exam
  • reviewing the person’s medical history

They may also conduct tests to rule out the possibility of a physical condition.

Mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders of varying degrees are diagnosed by physicians using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). These criteria assist them in determining the source of the problem as well as the most appropriate treatment method.

Some related medical conditions

The following medical conditions might generate symptoms that are typically associated with nervous breakdowns:

When to seek for doctor’s advice

If stress is interfering with your daily routines or activities, it is a good idea to consult with a healthcare specialist.

People suffering from the emotional and physical symptoms of stress, anxiety, and other related conditions might benefit from a variety of treatments.

A person, on the other hand, is often hesitant to seek expert assistance. They may be unaware that they are ill, have doubts about the effectiveness of treatment, or be hesitant to seek treatment because of perceived stigma.

The presence of extreme stress should prompt friends and family to encourage the person to seek professional help and provide them with the necessary encouragement and support while doing so.


Most people go through times of worry, anxiety, and hopelessness from time to time, especially after experiencing a traumatic incident of great significance.

However, if symptoms interfere with the capacity to conduct everyday duties or if the individual begins to isolate themselves socially, it is recommended that they seek professional help. This is especially important if the individual is contemplating killing oneself.

People who are experiencing what is known as a nervous breakdown can benefit from medication, counselling, and other forms of treatment.



Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.