Mental or nervous breakdown is a general term for an acute, time-limited psychiatric disorder that manifests primarily as severe stress-induced depression/anxiety, or dissociation in a previously functional individual, to the extent that they are no longer able to function on a day-to-day
Everybody experiences stress/anxiety on a daily basis, though usually at levels that are manageable. When stress and feelings of worry/anxiety build up to a level that has an impact on a person’s daily life, they may be described as having a nervous breakdown.
A nervous breakdown, also known as a mental health crisis, is a form of anxiety disorder. A nervous breakdown is not a medical term, as it does not describe a specific condition. It is more of a general term that is often used to describe someone who is obviously not coping with stress/worry/anxiety, and it gets out of hand.
A nervous breakdown can be triggered by a specific event that causes someone extreme stress, such as trauma/the death of a loved one.
However, it can also be the product of a gradual build-up of stress, commonly arising from pressures related to work/relationships or financial difficulties, divorce or unemployment may be factors.
Worry/stress and anxiety can build up over a long period of time and reach a point where a person is no longer able to cope/perform their normal daily tasks.
Signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown.
There are many different signs that indicate a person may be experiencing a nervous breakdown. Some signs relate to a person’s mental state and how they are feeling, or changes in personality. However, physical symptoms are also common.
People who feel they are having a nervous breakdown can:
• Feel isolated.
• Feel unable to concentrate.
• Feel moody.
• Feel depersonalised.
• Have thoughts of self-harm.
Physical symptoms can include:
• Frequent illnesses.
• Headaches/dizzy spells.
• Muscle pain.
• Bowel problems.
• Racing heart.
If you are concerned that you or a loved one is experiencing a nervous breakdown, it is important to seek professional help.
Following a nervous breakdown, a full recovery is possible.
Treatment may include counselling/psychotherapy while simple lifestyle changes can help deal with stress/anxiety.
Working on your diet, exercise and sleep habits can help.
A healthy diet can improve energy levels, sleep habits and help to combat illness, and prevent you feeling low/tired.
Exercise can help many forms of temporary and long-term mental illnesses. Exercise can be used as a way to do something for yourself and can provide ’time-out’ from other pressures. Team sports/activities encourage socialising, which can reduce feelings of isolation, give your mood a boost and increase self-esteem.
Physical fatigue may also improve sleep, which is essential to give you the energy to cope with day-to-day activities.
Learning relaxation techniques, such as meditation/breathing exercises, might also help, and can be practised when you feel your stress levels rising.
Get to know the signs that indicate you are struggling to cope.
If you can recognise the signs, then you can take action and ask for help before reaching a breaking point.
In some cases, a nervous breakdown may indicate a more serious mental health issue, such as an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, in which case medication and psychotherapy/counselling may be required to aid recovery.
© 2016, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.