A nervous breakdown is a mental health crisis that describes a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that can result from prolonged and intense stress, anxiety, or a traumatic event. If you’ve ever experienced a nervous breakdown, you may know how terrifying it can be. But how long does a nervous breakdown last? This is a question that many people ask when they or someone they love experiences this mental health crisis. In this blog post, we’ll look at the causes of a nervous breakdown, how long it typically lasts, and how you can manage the symptoms and promote wellness.
The Cause of a Nervous Breakdown
The causes of a nervous breakdown, also known as a mental breakdown or stress-induced breakdown, can be complex and multifaceted. While extreme stress and a lack of healthy coping mechanisms are often contributing factors, there can be many other factors that play a role, including:
- Toxic or unstable environments – These environments can contribute to ongoing stress, conflict, and instability, leading to feelings of overwhelm and emotional exhaustion.
- Trauma – Past experiences of trauma or abuse can lead to the development of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can increase the risk of a mental breakdown.
- Genetics – A family history of mental health conditions can increase the risk of developing a mental breakdown.
- Substance abuse – Chronic use of drugs or alcohol can affect brain chemistry and increase the risk of mental breakdown.
- Chronic illness – Managing a chronic illness or caring for someone with a chronic illness can lead to prolonged stress and increase the risk of mental breakdown.
- Major life changes – Major life changes such as divorce, job loss, or the death of a loved one can be stressful and increase the risk of a mental breakdown.
Mental health conditions – Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia can increase the risk of a mental breakdown.
The symptoms of a nervous breakdown can be debilitating and can impact various aspects of your life. You might feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with your daily responsibilities, leading to difficulty working or studying. Additionally, you might feel isolated, alone, and vulnerable, further exacerbating the situation. However, it’s important to remember that recovery from a nervous breakdown is possible with the proper support and treatment. Seeking professional help can provide you with the necessary tools and coping skills to manage your symptoms, reduce stress levels, and gradually return to your everyday life. Remember, taking the steps toward recovery can help you regain control of your mental health and overall well-being.
Stages of a Nervous Breakdown
Although there is no universally accepted or clinically defined set of stages for a nervous breakdown, individuals experiencing a nervous breakdown may undergo a number of emotional and physical changes. Here are some typical stages that individuals may experience during a nervous breakdown:
- Triggering event – A triggering event, such as a major life change, trauma, or excessive stress, can lead to feelings of overwhelming emotional distress.
- Emotional overload – At this stage, an individual may feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with their emotions. They may experience symptoms of anxiety, mood disorders, or intense sadness.
- Physical symptoms – Emotional distress can manifest as physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, and stomach problems.
- Social withdrawal and isolation – As symptoms worsen, individuals may avoid social situations, withdraw from social activities, and isolate themselves from others.
- Breakdown – The culmination of emotional and physical distress can lead to a breakdown in which an individual feels unable to function and cope with daily life.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s nervous breakdown experience is unique and may not follow a specific pattern or set of stages.
Signs and Symptoms of a Mental Breakdown
The symptoms of a nervous breakdown can differ from one person to another, depending on the underlying cause, but some common warning signs to look out for include the following:
- Increased feelings of anxiety and depression
- Extreme mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Racing heart
- Panic attacks
- Low self-esteem
- Changes in appetite
- Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Back pain
- Muscle pain
- Frequent illnesses
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Suicidal ideation or self-harm
- Misusing alcohol or drugs
In some cases, the extreme stress caused by a nervous breakdown can be so severe that it can induce psychosis and other symptoms such as paranoia, visual or auditory hallucinations, or delusions. While stress alone is not the root cause of psychosis, it can exacerbate preexisting mental health disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder that share symptoms with psychosis.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a nervous breakdown or mental illness, seek professional help from a mental health care provider as soon as possible.
How Long Does It Take To Recover From a Nervous Breakdown?
How long a mental breakdown lasts varies from person to person. Some people may experience a mental breakdown that lasts only a few hours, while others may struggle with it for weeks.
Some of the factors that influence how long a mental breakdown lasts include:
- The amount of stress leading up to the breakdown – If you’ve been under excessive mental distress, your nervous breakdown will likely last longer. This is because your body and mind require time to recover from the intense emotional stress.
- Your coping strategies – If you have healthy coping mechanisms in place, such as exercise, meditation, or therapy, you may be able to recover from a breakdown more swiftly. On the other hand, if you rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol or narcotics, your emotional breakdown may last longer.
- Timing and quality of treatment – Prompt treatment is essential for recovering from an emotional breakdown. The quicker you seek assistance, the greater your likelihood of a rapid recovery. In addition, the quality of your treatment can also have a significant impact on your recovery time.
- Your social support system – A solid support system can make all the difference when recovering from an emotional breakdown. If you have supportive friends and family, it can help you feel less alone and more supported.
- Any undiagnosed or untreated mental health conditions – Not seeking treatment for any underlying mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, can make it more challenging to recover from a breakdown.
Regardless of how long your mental breakdown lasts, seeking treatment as soon as possible is essential. If you have an underlying mental health condition, you may need lifelong treatment to manage it. However, if your breakdown is due to a prolonged stressful event, you may not need long-term therapy, although you may benefit from it.
Recovering From a Mental Breakdown
Therapists and mental health professionals can be your lifeline when struggling with a mental breakdown. They’ll work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs and help you avoid future nervous breakdowns. This plan may include various psychotherapies, support groups, and medications.
But treatment alone isn’t enough. You may also need to make some lifestyle changes to support your recovery.
- Cut back on responsibilities and take on only what you can handle
- Spend time doing things you enjoy
- Ask for help when you need it
- Quit smoking and drinking
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Get plenty of physical activity
- Create a bedtime habit and regimen that will help you sleep well
- Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation regularly
The Importance of Social Support While Recovering From a Nervous Breakdown
Studies have shown that simply talking to someone willing to listen can do wonders for your stress levels, even if it doesn’t offer a concrete solution to the problems causing the stress. This is why it’s crucial to make socializing a part of your routine, especially if you’re dealing with a mental health issue, substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorder.
You can start doing this by investing in your closest relationships. It can be easy to neglect your relationships when life gets busy. But taking the time to cultivate your most intimate relationships can significantly impact your mental health. It also helps to look for social support outside your closest circle. Try fostering friendships with your coworkers. You can also join support groups for people with similar mental health issues. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), meeting with support groups occasionally is a great way to reflect, share, and support one another.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health issue, substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorder, Turning Point Centers is here to help. Our dedicated team of mental health professionals can assist you in receiving the care you need. Call us now to learn more about our mental health care services.