A nervous breakdown is not a mental illness; it is more of an unhealthy response to stress. A nervous breakdown 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. Worse, this may indicate that a person is already developing a mental health problem.
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 a Nervous Breakdown?
The term “nervous breakdown” is not a medical term or a mental illness. Instead, it is an informal term used to describe a person experiencing symptoms that could be signs of 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 Does a Person Experience a Nervous Breakdown?
A nervous breakdown is mainly caused by a person’s inability to cope in a healthy way to stress. The triggers or risk factors that may cause a nervous breakdown are the loss of a loved one, job loss, financial issues, recent traumatic experiences, chronic physical illness, overwhelming life change (e.g., divorce), family problems, and work stress.
A person who recently went through a job loss may cope healthily with a period of grief, face the problem, and look for another job. In comparison, a person who’s having a nervous breakdown may have feelings of hopelessness. This is why we all must learn what healthy coping mechanisms are to avoid a nervous breakdown.
The How: How Do You Know if Someone Is Having a Nervous Breakdown?
Since a nervous breakdown is not a medically coined term, the signs of a person going through one 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 Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown:
- Feelings of depression
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- 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
- Stomach ache
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Social withdrawal
- Poor hygiene
- Eating disorders (binge-eating or loss of appetite)
- Habitual tardiness at work
- Inability to enjoy previously enjoyable activities
- Alcohol abuse
One person may have physical symptoms, while another may have behavioral changes only. Experiencing some of the signs mentioned above may be a cry for help. Do not wait for another episode of a nervous breakdown; talk to a mental health professional immediately.
How Is a Nervous Breakdown Managed?
Since nervous breakdowns are caused mainly by poor coping skills to stress, a nervous breakdown can best be managed and prevented by learning how to cope with stress properly. Here are some of the coping mechanisms to prevent and manage a nervous breakdown:
- Stress management: Manage your stress by practicing relaxation techniques, deep breathing, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or downloading a meditation app to relax your mind and body. 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, getting enough sleep, pampering yourself, or taking a break from what causes your stress. If you need quiet time for yourself, engage in a solitary activity or one that would relax your nerves and muscles, like getting a massage or booking for an acupuncture session.
- Avoiding destructive behavior: Avoid drinking alcohol or taking recreational drugs as this may worsen your nervous breakdown. If you can, also try to avoid caffeine. It is known to cause sleeplessness and is not good for your anxiety.
- Resting: An exhausted person may have a hard time coping with stress. Make sure you get enough sleep every night and 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.
- Talking to mental health professionals: When you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything problematic in your life, talk to a mental healthcare provider. Therapy may help you explore what you’re feeling, why you behave that way, and how you can avoid having a nervous breakdown.
How to Get Help
Nervous breakdowns are manageable and can be prevented as long as you follow 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 condition. Take the first step and talk with a mental health professional at Kentucky Counseling Center.
Do not let a nervous breakdown interfere with your everyday life and affect your relationships with loved ones, friends, and colleagues. Life is too short to dwell on the negativities and let stress take the best of you.