Futures Recovery Healthcare

Understanding What a Mental Breakdown Is (and How to Get Help)


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

call now CALL NOW
(866) 351-7588

Mental health issues impact millions of people across the United States and the world. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, in 2019 there were 51.5 million U. S. adults over the age of 18 with some type of mental health disorder.  Some mental health issues are severe. 

One type of a serious mental health issue, often requiring immediate attention, is a mental breakdown. A mental breakdown, previously called ‘nervous breakdown’ by some, describes a period of intense mental distress with the inability (or severely decreased ability) to function in daily life. 

From time to time just about everyone has felt overwhelmed. Stressors from daily life as well as acute stressors can lead to feelings of anxiety, sadness, and the inability to cope. However, having a mental breakdown is feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and unable to cope to a different extreme. 

Mental breakdowns commonly follow some sort of trigger or triggers. Usually, there was already a high level of stress coupled with unhealthy coping methods in place already. Then, an acute stress trigger occurs and a mental breakdown ensues. 

Most people remember Britney Spears’ infamous mental breakdowns in 2007 and 2008. While many found it humorous to watch her come unraveled, it was really a tragedy unfolding in front of the public. For Spears, the triggers for her were a combination of her failed marriage to Kevin Federline along with the loss of custody of her then young children. 

Following her very public mental breakdown, Spears found herself hospitalized and on a psychiatric hold after refusing to give her children to Federline. 

What Triggers a Mental Breakdown 

A mental breakdown is a serious mental health situation requiring immediate, professional help. As mentioned, a nervous breakdown or mental breakdown is caused by both excessive amounts of stress as well as poor coping skills. 

The stress can be something that has been building over time or it can be a sudden stressful event or series of sudden, stressful events. It is different for everyone. The amount of stressors and types of stressors each person can endure before they ‘break’ is unique to them. 

It’s also important to remember that the lack of proper, healthy coping skills plays a big part in the mental breakdown. One of the most common triggers for a mental breakdown is work-related stress

Sometimes, there are underlying mental health issues occurring too which can lead to or contribute to the mental breakdown. Those individuals with anxiety disorders such as panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder can be more prone to have a mental breakdown. 

Additionally, there are those who either have or develop substance use disorders (SUD). Many people who are under enormous amounts of stress (which is subjective to each person), lean on alcohol or other substances to help ‘ease’ the stress. This is an example of an unhealthy coping skill for stress. 

There are also those who have a breakdown or any underlying mental health disorder such as social anxiety who begin to rely on alcohol or another substance to help them cope. Either way, a co-occurring mental health and substance or alcohol use disorder (AUD) can develop. 

For this reason, when you or a loved one is seeking help for a mental breakdown or any other mental health issue, it’s important to find an addiction treatment center that effectively addresses co-occurring disorders such as these. 

Futures Recovery Healthcare offers not only treatment for co-occurring disorders but also has a unit entirely devoted to mental health issues. In addition, Futures treat both AUD and SUD. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance issues or mental health issues, Futures can help. Our compassionate team of professionals is devoted to helping all those who come to us to heal—whether from an AUD, SUD, or mental health disorder. 

It’s important to get help for a mental breakdown right away. Recognizing the signs of an impending mental breakdown—or a breakdown as it’s happening—is crucial. If you feel you may be having a mental breakdown call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. 

Signs of a Mental Health Breakdown 

While signs of a breakdown vary from one person to another, there are some symptoms to look for if you think you or someone else may be experiencing a mental breakdown. But first, let’s take a look at signs that a mental health breakdown may be looming around the corner. 

Early Warning Signs of a Mental Breakdown

  • Feeling excessive amounts of pressure or feeling overwhelmed
  • Increased or new feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Concentration or focusing issues
  • Inability to perform common, daily tasks
  • Feeling or appearing lazy
  • Mood swings sometimes extreme
  • Changes in eating, sleeping, and self-care patterns
  • Increase in drinking alcohol or use of substances to cope or ‘take the edge off’

Recognizing these signs is important so you or a loved one can help sooner than later. Receiving help at this stage can stop the mental breakdown from occurring. 

Signs of Mental Breakdowns

Many of the symptoms of a nervous breakdown or mental breakdown are similar to the list above. However, overall, an actual mental breakdown is characterized by being completely overwhelmed by stressors or an acute stressful situation which makes an individual unable to effectively function. 

Here are some other physical symptoms associated with a mental breakdown:

  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Muscle tightness or soreness
  • Headaches and/or migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heart or heart palpitations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Back pain

A mental breakdown can be mistaken for a panic attack or anxiety attack which causes similar symptoms. In addition, a panic or anxiety attack can be mistaken for a heart attack. It’s vital when assessing either your own or someone else’s symptoms to take into account any associated stressors or traumatic events. 

As mentioned, an actual mental or nervous breakdown includes the inability or severely decreased ability to function at daily tasks. This may look like any of the following:

  • Absenteeism at work or school 
  • Missing appointments and commitments
  • Poor or decreased performance at school or work
  • Isolating ones’ self and avoidance of social situations
  • Poor hygiene or self-care

If you or a loved one are showing any signs of a mental breakdown, seek professional help at once. As with other mental health issues, including AUD and SUD, the sooner you get treatment the better. 

Treating a Mental Breakdown

Generally speaking, a mental breakdown or nervous breakdown is not a mental health disorder. When a person has a mental breakdown, they are often diagnosed with underlying mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, or stress disorders. 

It is highly recommended that anyone who thinks they may be having, about to have, or have recently had a mental health breakdown to consider residential or inpatient treatment. Within this treatment, or any type of treatment, therapy, medication, education about mental health disorders, family therapy, lifestyle changes, and the introduction of healthier coping skills is important. 

In Futures’ Mental Health program, our patients receive comprehensive medical and psychiatric evaluations. Our compassionate team then collaboratively develops a personalized treatment plan to address all issues discovered during the assessments. 

In addition to therapy, both individual and group, there is family therapy and medication management as is deemed appropriate. Patients are also able to engage in holistic health activities including yoga, mindfulness, and meditation. 

It’s important to remember that even if you or a loved one is having or has had a mental breakdown, it is a temporary condition. With the right treatment, you, or your loved one, can recover and begin to heal

If you want to learn more about Futures’ Mental Health program and how it can help you or a loved one contact us today. Reach out confidentially either online or call us at 866-804-2098. If you are in immediate crisis call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. 


Take the important first step and call us now for help.

call now CALL NOW
(866) 351-7588
Skip to toolbar