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Dealing With a Mental Breakdown at Work


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Your workplace can be enjoyable, rewarding, challenging, or satisfying. However, it can also be a source of stress or anxiety, resulting in a mental breakdown or other underlying mental health disorders. A mental breakdown is a mental health crisis induced by an accumulation of extreme stress. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the proportion of Americans who have ever felt on the verge of a mental breakdown has risen during the past four decades. Therefore, recognizing the warning signs is essential for initiating treatment. You can learn to manage your mental health challenges and enhance your quality of life by utilizing the therapies and support provided by such treatment programs.

What Is a Mental Breakdown?

A mental breakdown, also known as a nervous breakdown, refers to a period of extreme emotional distress that makes it difficult for you to perform day-to-day activities. It can occur due to extreme stress and a lack of healthy coping mechanisms to manage them. A nervous breakdown can occur anywhere, at any time, to anyone, and have a severe impact on your psychological and physical health.

Although a nervous breakdown is not considered a medical health diagnosis, it can cause serious implications and affect many aspects of your life, including work. And what others see as a nervous breakdown may also indicate an underlying and undiagnosed mental health condition that needs your attention, such as anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Signs of a Mental Breakdown 

A nervous breakdown is a culmination of extreme amounts of stress and several additional symptoms that have accumulated over time. These symptoms can vary depending on the individual and the underlying cause. Nevertheless, they generally consist of psychological, behavioral, and physical symptoms, including:

  • Extreme mood swings 
  • Emotional outbursts 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Feeling anxious, depressed, or irritable. 
  • Panic attacks
  • Paranoia 
  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors 
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Gastrointestinal issues 
  • Insomnia or poor sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained body aches and pains
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Frequently missing appointments and calling in sick for work.

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.

Individuals experiencing a mental breakdown may also abuse alcohol or drugs to cope with persistent stress. However, self-medication with drugs or alcohol results in negative side effects and, in the long run, frequently exacerbates the problems they initially helped to alleviate. 

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 has a dedicated mental health treatment program and substance abuse treatment program that can assist you in receiving the care you need.

Dealing With a Mental Breakdown at Work - Futures Recovery Healthcare

How Long Does a Nervous Breakdown Last?

A mental breakdown can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. The duration of this mental health crisis depends on the individual and factors such as:

  • The amount of stress leading up to the breakdown 
  • Your coping mechanisms 
  • Timing and quality of treatment 
  • Any undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorders 
  • The state of your social support system

Regardless of the duration of the breakdown, it’s important to seek the help of mental health professionals to prevent the condition from worsening. These health care providers will assess your condition and develop a customized treatment plan that best fits you. This plan may include psychotherapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and medications. 

How to Deal With a Mental Breakdown at Work?

In addition to receiving care for your mental health concern, you can manage or prevent an emotional breakdown at work by implementing the below strategies.

Take Frequent Breaks – Taking breaks between work can reduce stress, lighten your mood, and improve productivity and performance. Allow yourself to have a few minutes of uninterrupted breaks during work hours. You can use this time to take a short walk with your colleagues or even listen to some music to refresh your mind. 

Trim Your To-Do List – Breaking huge tasks into small, manageable goals can go a long way. Fill your list with practical, short-term goals and set a limit for the day. This practice will encourage you to work and make it seem less daunting. 

Identify Your Triggers – You can start by keeping a journal and tracking situations or environments that have caused you stress or anxiety in the past. Once you identify your triggers, incorporate coping mechanisms to help you get through those situations. This may include taking a short walk, stretching, practicing breathing exercises, or identifying quiet spaces where you can take breaks. 

Maintain a Balanced Diet – A well-balanced diet can improve energy levels and prevent you from feeling low and tired. Focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that may stress the body. Consuming alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism can worsen mental health issues or lead to addiction. 

Live in the Present – We are often distracted by unsettling thoughts about our past or worried about the future. Sometimes, these unhealthy thoughts can trigger an emotional breakdown. Take charge of your emotions and try to live in the present. This will help you be more productive at work and in your personal life.

Ask For Help – Remember that you are not alone and do not have to suffer in silence. You can always reach out to family, friends, or coworkers and get their help and support in managing your mental health. Asking for help is essential and can be empowering. 

Employee Support Options

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stress and anxiety disorders, such as depression, cost the global economy more than a trillion dollars each year in lost productivity. This demonstrates that paying attention to employees’ mental health directly impacts the success of organizations. Here are two support options provided by some companies to help their employees regain their mental health during difficult times:

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

An EAP is a work-based intervention program that offers confidential assessments, referrals, short-term counseling, and follow-up services to help employees resolve personal or work-related problems that may adversely affect their work performance. EAPs have traditionally assisted employees with issues such as substance abuse. However, they now have expanded to cover various other issues, including psychological disorders, child or elder care, relationship challenges, wellness matters, financial or legal problems, and traumatic events like workplace violence. EAP counselors also work with managers and supervisors to identify and address employee and organizational challenges and needs.

Other services that an EAP may provide include nurse advice lines, basic legal support, and adoption assistance. Employees’ spouses, children, and non-marital partners who live in the same household are also eligible for EAP services. The services are frequently provided through phone, online chatting, video counseling, e-mail conversations, or in person.

Taking a Mental Health Day

As organizations seek ways to reduce employee stress, many implement mental health days as a significant perk to promote employee health and retention. A mental health day is one technique to assist employees in coping with their work-related stress, preventing burnout, and focusing on their emotional, spiritual, and mental wellbeing. You can spend this time doing whatever makes you feel better, such as watching a movie, going out with friends or cycling. Although taking a day off will not solve any underlying issues contributing to a mental breakdown, a mental health day can provide a much-needed break to pause, recollect, and come back with greater energy levels and a clearer head. 

Mental breakdowns can be an isolating experience. It can make you feel like you are alone, but in fact, you are not. Dealing with a mental breakdown at work can be frustrating. However, with the right care and lifestyle changes, you can prevent it from causing irreversible damage to your professional life. 

Futures Recovery Healthcare works tirelessly to assist individuals in obtaining treatment and support for various mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and co-occurring conditions in a judgment-free environment. 

We treat depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, and other related conditions using 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.


Our team is here to guide you through your path to recovery.

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(866) 351-7588
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