Life is not always easy, and our mental health can take a hit from the stresses of modern life, such as those at work and home, from time to time. Anxiety and stress are everyday human experiences, but they can cause serious problems when they get out of hand.
You are, however, not alone in this. Recent studies show that stress and anxiety are responsible for an increasing number of people’s mental breakdowns. However, understanding the symptoms and getting help when the first warning signs become apparent can mean a world of difference.
A mental breakdown, also called a “nervous breakdown,” is a term that’s commonly used in popular culture to describe a period of intense stress or mental distress that interferes with daily life. It’s not a medical term and is not used in mental health care anymore. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a genuine phenomenon. A mental health illness such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be hiding under the surface of what looks to be a mental breakdown.
It’s important to note that seeking professional help from a mental health provider is the best course of action if you are experiencing severe emotional distress or other symptoms that interfere with your ability to function normally. A mental health professional can provide a proper diagnosis, treatment, and support for your specific condition.
Signs and Symptoms of a Mental Breakdown
The signs and symptoms of a mental breakdown can vary from person to person and can be different depending on the underlying cause of the breakdown. However, here are some common psychological and physical symptoms to keep an eye out for:
- Overwhelming anxiety or fear
- Intense feelings of sadness or despair
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
- Changes in sleeping patterns, such as insomnia or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Irritability or anger
- Mood swings or emotional outbursts
- Feeling disconnected from reality or others
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seeking help is essential. You can contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 for confidential support and resources. This service is available to anyone in need and can provide guidance and information on how to get help. If you require immediate medical attention, call 911 or visit your local emergency room.
It’s important to note that experiencing one or more symptoms does not necessarily mean someone has a mental breakdown. However, if these symptoms persist and interfere with everyday life, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. A mental health provider can help identify the underlying cause of the symptoms and provide appropriate treatment and support.
Difference Between a Panic Attack and a Nervous Breakdown
Due to their similar symptoms, mental breakdowns are often misdiagnosed as panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden and intense episode of fear or anxiety, typically accompanied by physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, and shortness of breath. Panic attacks can be triggered by specific situations, such as public speaking or flying, or can occur unexpectedly. Panic attacks usually last for several minutes and then subside on their own, although they can be very distressing and frightening. On the other hand, a nervous breakdown is not a specific medical or clinical term and does not have a clear definition. It is a more general term that is often used to describe a state of extreme emotional or mental distress, typically brought on by overwhelming stress, trauma, or a combination of factors.
Causes and Triggers of a Nervous Breakdown
The causes and triggers of a nervous breakdown can be complex and may vary from person to person, but some common factors that may contribute to this condition include:
- Extreme stress – Prolonged exposure to stressful situations, such as work-related stress, financial problems, or family issues, can eventually take a toll on a person’s mental health and lead to a nervous breakdown.
- Trauma – Experiencing a traumatic event, such as abuse, assault, or a natural disaster, can trigger intense feelings of anxiety, fear, and helplessness that may lead to a nervous breakdown.
- Substance abuse – Drug or alcohol abuse can disrupt the brain’s normal functioning and exacerbate existing mental health conditions, increasing the risk of a nervous breakdown.
- Genetics – Some mental health disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, may have a genetic component that can increase the risk of a nervous breakdown.
- Personal loss – The death of a loved one, divorce, or any significant personal loss can lead to a state of emotional distress that may trigger an emotional breakdown.
- Lack of support – A lack of support from family and friends or limited access to mental health resources can contribute to feelings of isolation and stress, increasing the risk of an emotional breakdown.
- Chronic medical condition – Living with a chronic medical condition can be physically and emotionally challenging, and it can cause significant stress and anxiety, which can lead to an emotional breakdown.
The possible causes of an emotional breakdown are limitless, and everyone’s experience with a nervous breakdown is unique. What may be a trigger for one may not be for another.
Nervous Breakdown Treatment
Treatment for a nervous breakdown typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. The specific treatment plan will depend on the individual’s symptoms, the severity of the breakdown, and underlying causes. Some common treatment options include:
- Lifestyle changes
It’s important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of an emotional breakdown. A mental health professional can help develop a personalized treatment plan and provide support and guidance throughout the recovery process.
Talk therapy is the primary treatment for psychological or emotional stress, and the most effective psychotherapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). According to the American Psychological Association (APA), CBT is a famous talk therapy that has proven effective in treating anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. It helps identify and change dysfunctional thought processes and behaviors, teaches you how to cope with challenging situations and stress, and aids you in establishing healthy habits for long-term wellness. Your primary care provider will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan based on your specific treatment goals.
If you need extra support, your healthcare provider may prescribe certain medications to manage your mental health symptoms. These medications can include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. If you have insomnia, they may prescribe a sleep aid to induce sleep and reduce stress.
Support groups unite people experiencing or who have dealt with similar situations by providing a safe place to share their struggles and learn from others’ experiences. They also help establish healthy, long-term relationships and build a sense of community and belonging. Your primary care physician, mental health professional, or local religious institution can help when searching for a local support group. You can also look into the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and Mental Health America (MHA) websites for a local meeting.
Making lifestyle changes can help reduce stress and improve your overall mental health.
- Avoid alcohol and coffee – These can worsen your symptoms and prevent you from getting any rest. Drink only non-caffeinated beverages such as water, herbal tea, or juices.
- Exercise regularly – Regular physical activity can help you sleep better and lessen your stress levels.
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet – Ensure you’re giving your body the nourishment it needs to function well. Avoid processed foods and eat lots of fresh produce, wholesome grains, and lean protein.
- Adhere to a sleep schedule – Quality sleep can be achieved by sticking to a regular sleep pattern. Hence, try to adhere to a consistent sleep and wake schedule. Also, if you want a good night’s rest, put away the electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
- Engage in stress-relieving activities – These can include acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation.
Seeking professional help for a nervous breakdown can be a challenging but essential step toward healing and recovery. Many people report that with the right treatment and counseling, they are better able to deal with their issues, develop effective coping mechanisms, and achieve a healthier, less stressful life. It’s important to remember that recovery is possible, and you are not alone in this journey. With the support of mental health professionals and your loved ones, you can navigate this difficult time and emerge even stronger than before.
At Turning Point Centers, we understand how daunting it can be to seek help for your mental health issues. That’s why our team of dedicated professionals works tirelessly to provide a safe and judgment-free environment for individuals and families seeking treatment and support.
Our program offers various interventions and support for many mental health conditions, including anxiety, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders. We believe in a holistic approach that includes clinical, psychiatric, medical, and wellness techniques to help our clients achieve their goals.