A nervous breakdown is not a mental illness; it is more of an unhealthy response to stress. This is a period of mental distress that is a cry for help. A person having a nervous breakdown may be going through depression or anxiety, or worse, this may be an indicative sign that a mental health problem is on the rise. 

When a person is having a nervous breakdown and cannot function well in daily activities, there must be an intervention. So how do you know if someone is experiencing a mental breakdown? Why does a person experience a nervous breakdown? More importantly, how can you help a friend or loved one on the verge of a mental breakdown?

The What: What Is Nervous Breakdown?

Just so you know, the term nervous breakdown is not a medical term, nor is it a mental illness. Instead, it is an informal term used to describe a person experiencing symptoms that may represent underlying mental health issues. While it is true that all of us experience that ‘everyday stress,’ how can you tell if a person is having a nervous breakdown? 

A person having a nervous breakdown may feel overwhelmed by the stress and have unhealthy coping mechanisms that it’s starting to affect their everyday activities, behavior, sleep cycle, and even their eating patterns. 

The Why: Why Do a Person Experience Nervous Breakdown?

Nervous breakdown is mainly caused by a person’s inability to cope in a healthy way to stress. The triggering or risk factors that may cause a nervous breakdown are; a loss of a loved one, job loss, financial issues, recent traumatic experiences, chronic physical illness, overwhelming life change (divorce), family problems, and work stress. 

A person who recently experienced a job loss may cope healthily with a period of grieve, face the problem and look for another job. In comparison, a person who’s having a nervous breakdown may have feelings of hopelessness. That is why we all must learn what are healthy coping mechanisms to avoid a nervous breakdown. 

Related: Layoff Lows: How to Fight Unemployment Depression

The How: How to Know if Someone Has a Nervous Breakdown?

Since nervous breakdown is not a medically coined term, the signs of a person experiencing a nervous breakdown may vary. The symptoms may vary from one person to another, but mostly there are changes in the behavior, physical health, and mental state. Here are some of the signs a person is having a nervous breakdown or an underlying mental health condition:

Mental Breakdown: 

  • Feelings of depression
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in sleeping patterns (insomnia or oversleeping)
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Unexplainable emotional outbursts
  • Detachment from reality
  • Extreme fear or paranoia
  • Panic attacks

Physical symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown:

  • High blood pressure
  • Tensed muscles 
  • Sweaty or clammy hands
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach ache
  • Trembling
  • Shaking
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty of breathing


  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor hygiene 
  • Eating disorders (binge-eating or loss of appetite)
  • Always late or tardy at work
  • Does not enjoy the activities unlike before
  • Alcohol abuse

Remember that the signs of a person experiencing a nervous breakdown may differ. One person may have physical symptoms while the other may have behavioral changes only. But if you or a loved one experiences some of the signs mentioned above, this may be a cry for help. Do not wait for another episode of a nervous breakdown; talk to a mental health professional immediately. 

Related: Learn Healthy Coping Skills and Live life to the Fullest

How Is Nervous Breakdown Managed?

Since nervous breakdowns are mostly caused by poor coping skills to stress, a nervous breakdown can best be managed and prevented by learning how to cope properly with stress. Here are some of the coping mechanisms on how to prevent and manage nervous breakdown:

  • Stress Management: Manage your stress through relaxation techniques, deep breathing, yoga, meditation, try a meditation app, mindfulness practice to relax your mind and body. All it takes for you is to manage your stress in a healthy way. You can’t avoid stress and problems in life; what you have to learn is how to deal with them in a healthy manner. 
  • Self-care: Take care of yourself by eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, get enough sleep, pamper yourself, take a break from what causes your stress. If you need quiet time for yourself, take a break. If you need to get a massage to de-stress, you deserve it. 
  • Avoid destructive behavior: Avoid drinking alcohol or recreational drugs as this may worsen the mental breakdown. If you can, also avoid caffeine as this may cause sleepless nights and is not good for your anxiety. 
  • Take a rest: An exhausted person may have a hard time coping with stress. Make sure to get enough sleep every night; take time away from what’s causing you stress. If this means going on a vacation to recharge, do it. If it means asking for help from a family member with household chores so you won’t get overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask. 
  • Talk to mental health professionals: When you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything that’s happening, talk to a mental health care provider. Therapy may help you explore what you’re feeling, why you behave that way, and how you can avoid on the verge of having a nervous breakdown. 

How to Get Help?

Nervous breakdowns are manageable, and they can be prevented as long as you do the tips mentioned above. Of course, one of those is to talk to a therapist right away. Do not wait for a nervous breakdown to turn into clinical depression or any other mental health conditions. Take the first step and talk with a mental health professional from Kentucky Counseling Center

Do not let a nervous breakdown interfere with your everyday life and affect your relationships with the people you love. Life is too short to dwell on the negativities and letting stress take the best of you. Upon seeing the first sign of a nervous breakdown in you or a loved one, talk to a therapist from Kentucky Counseling Center right away.

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