Many individuals experience a mental or nervous breakdown at some point in their lives. Despite these hurdles, many of us gradually learn to pick ourselves up and reclaim our lives. However, without ongoing treatment and professional guidance, nervous breakdowns can reoccur and severely impact all aspects of life.
What It’s Like to Have a Nervous Breakdown
A nervous breakdown is a period of intense emotional and mental distress in which a person becomes so overwhelmed that even the most basic tasks become extremely challenging or impossible, and everyday life comes to an abrupt halt. Feelings of immense stress, anxiety, and depression during this period can leave you vulnerable and isolated. It isn’t easy to pursue happiness, invest in meaningful relationships, and live a peaceful life when you feel like your entire world is collapsing around you. To better understand a mental breakdown and learn how to deal with it, we must first understand why it occurs and how to recognize the warning signs.
The Root Cause of Nervous Breakdowns
A nervous breakdown is not a diagnosable medical condition nor a clinical term. Instead, it’s a mental health crisis caused by intense physical and emotional stress and anxiety that leaves you unable to cope with daily life.
Here are some examples of stressful situations that can lead to a nervous breakdown:
- Unmanageable academic pressure and responsibilities
- Experiencing intense pressure and stress at work
- Family responsibilities that become burdensome and stressful
- Social and political unrest
- Natural disasters such as wildfire, floods, and COVID-19
- Planning an important event such as a wedding, graduation, or vacation
- Sudden life changes such as a divorce or the loss of a child in a custody dispute
- The death of a family member
- The loss of a job or another type of financial difficulty
- Experiencing a traumatic event, such as abuse, discrimination, or a mass shooting
- Experiencing parental burnout
What others perceive to be a nervous breakdown can also be an undiagnosed mental health disorder such as anxiety disorder, mood disorder, and depressive disorder. Examples of underlying mental health conditions that generate frequent nervous breakdowns are acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and personality disorders.
While these breakdowns can be frightening and incapacitating, you can take steps to overcome and prevent them from happening again. Identifying the symptoms, taking preventative measures, and receiving treatment can be beneficial.
How to Identify the Warning Signs
The signs and symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on the underlying cause. While some signs relate to a person’s mental state and feelings, physical and behavioral symptoms are also common.
Common signs of a mental breakdown include:
- Low self-esteem
- Unable to sleep
- Lack of appetite
- Panic attack
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Feeling persistently sad or hopeless
- Severe disappointment with their life
- Unable to concentrate or make decisions
- Feeling depressed or anxious
- Feeling disengaged and isolated
- Extreme fear or a sense of doom
- Extreme mood swings or unexplained outbursts
- Self-destructive or reckless behaviors
- Hallucinations and paranoia
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Isolating oneself from friends and family
- Avoiding social functions and engagements
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
If you’re experiencing a nervous breakdown, believe you may harm yourself, or are contemplating suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or connect to the Lifeline by dialing 988. The new three-digit dialing code, 988, will direct calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Beginning July 16, 2022, this dialing code will be available to everyone in the United States. Even after 988 is deployed nationally, the present Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available to those in mental distress or suicidal crisis.
Treatment for a Nervous Breakdown
Once you have been evaluated by a mental health professional, you can work with a psychiatrist or therapist to develop a treatment plan to help you cope with stress and prevent future crises. You may want to consider a short stay in a residential treatment facility, depending on the severity of your condition. This form of treatment allows you to focus solely on your health and wellness without the distractions of daily life. Your treatment plan may include a variety of therapies, stress management, relaxation techniques, group support, and pharmacological interventions.
Tips for Self-Care After a Nervous Breakdown
Becoming self-aware is essential to your wellness journey after a nervous break. Therapists and other mental health professionals can teach you techniques and assist you in taking measures to prevent future mental breakdowns. This includes changes to your lifestyle that will help you manage your stress, such as:
- Getting regular exercise at least three times a week
- Attending counseling sessions to combat stress
- Avoiding drugs, alcohol, and other substances that stress the body
- Sleeping for at least seven hours per night
- Journaling a few minutes a day
- Eating a healthy diet
- Spending more time with friends and family
- Spending more time doing things you enjoy
- Taking mental breaks regularly
- Organizing daily activities by keeping a daily to-do list
- Cutting back on responsibilities and only taking on what you can handle
- Incorporating relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises and yoga into your daily routine
While you can make these changes on your own, it may be more effective to create a treatment plan with the assistance of a mental health professional that suits your specific healthcare needs.
The Importance of Social Support After a Nervous Breakdown
Social support strengthens individuals by providing them the confidence to persevere and prosper during times of emotional distress. Therefore, returning to life after a nervous break should involve boosting social support and spending time with loved ones. You can start by spending time and effort on your closest relationships that were neglected due to your hectic schedule. You can also seek support outside your closest circle by meeting with support groups. Taking the time to cultivate relationships within your support groups will yield long-term benefits. You can search for a local support group on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and Mental Health America (MHA) websites.
Ongoing Care After a Nervous Breakdown
Following a nervous breakdown, ongoing care includes attending therapy sessions regularly, engaging with support groups, practicing relaxation techniques, building healthy coping mechanisms, and prioritizing self-care. You can return to a better way of life and avoid future mental breakdowns with a good treatment plan, followed by continued care and lifestyle changes.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with a mental health disorder, substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorder, Futures Recovery Healthcare is here for you.
Futures Recovery Healthcare works tirelessly to assist individuals in obtaining treatment and support in a judgment-free environment. Patients can receive comprehensive care for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, bipolar disorders, and other related conditions through our multidisciplinary team approach, including clinical, psychiatric, medication, medical, and wellness interventions and support. To learn more about our mental health care services, contact us online or call 866-804-2098.