What would you do if someone you know is having a mental breakdown? Would you know how to help or who to call? Having such knowledge can be lifesaving. This article aims to help you understand mental breakdowns, their symptoms and warning signs, treatment options, and mental health services available for immediate support to help your loved ones through this mental health crisis.
What Is a Mental Breakdown?
A mental breakdown (nervous breakdown) refers to a period of extreme emotional or mental distress in which people find it difficult to function normally in their day-to-day lives. A nervous breakdown commonly occurs when life’s demands get physically and emotionally overwhelming. The term was often used to cover a wide range of mental illnesses in the past, but the medical community no longer uses it as it doesn’t have one agreed-upon definition. Although nervous breakdown is not a clinical term or a medical diagnosis, the condition could be signs of an underlying mental health condition such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A nervous breakdown is a serious mental health concern that can profoundly affect many aspects of a person’s life.
Symptoms of a Mental Breakdown
The symptoms of a nervous breakdown can vary from person to person, depending on the underlying cause. However, they generally include a combination of the following:
- Feelings of depression, sadness, or hopelessness
- Emotional outbursts
- Rapid mood swings
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of motivation
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle pains
- Chest pains
- Racing heart
- Tingling hands or feet
- Difficulty breathing
- Trouble concentrating or focusing
- Digestive issues
- Restlessness and irritability
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Losing interest in activities that you once enjoyed
- Missing appointments or other responsibilities
- Avoiding social situations
- Not keeping up with personal hygiene
- 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.
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.
Early Warning Signs of a Mental Breakdown
There can be a few warning signs that suggest you or someone you love is on the verge of experiencing a nervous breakdown. These warning signs include:
- Feeling excessive amounts of pressure or feeling overwhelmed
- Increased or new feelings of depression or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks or remembering things
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Being uncharacteristically unorganized
- Feeling or appearing lazy
- Increased use of alcohol or other substances as a means of coping
Recognizing such warning signs is critical so that you or a loved one can get treatment as soon as possible. Receiving professional help at this point can help avert mental breakdowns.
Causes of a Mental Breakdown
Extreme stress and a lack of healthy coping skills are the most common causes of a mental breakdown. Many additional external and internal variables can also contribute to this mental health crisis, including:
- Persistent stress or pressure at work
- Serious financial issues
- Social and political unrest
- Experiencing parental burnout
- A recent injury or illness that makes daily life challenging
- Natural disasters such as wildfire, floods, and COVID-19
- A traumatic event, such as a physical assault, a mass shooting, or the death of a loved one
- Major life changes, such as a job loss or divorce
- Lack of a strong support system
- Planning an important event such as a wedding, graduation, or vacation
- Any untreated mental health disorders
A mental breakdown may be caused by a single or numerous stressful situations. Everyone reacts differently to stressful events, and each individual has their own breaking point.
What Should You Do if Someone Is Experiencing a Mental Breakdown?
If someone is experiencing a nervous breakdown, be present and non-judgmental. Let the person know you are there to support them through this difficult time. Here are some additional ways you can assist a loved one experiencing a mental breakdown:
- Create a safe and calm environment
- Encourage them to stay connected with supportive family and friends
- Help them make lifestyle changes
- Assist with child care if necessary
- Support them in continuing their current treatment or encourage them to seek treatment
- If necessary, offer to drive them to appointments or pick up their medications
Keep in mind that each person’s experience is unique, and there are certain things you should avoid saying or doing, such as:
- Don’t presume you understand what they’re thinking or feeling
- Do not accuse them of lying or exaggerating
- Don’t dismiss their thoughts or feelings
- Avoid forcing them to do what you want or think is best
- Avoid putting yourself in situations where you could be hurt physically
A severe or acute nervous breakdown is a mental health emergency that requires hospitalization or inpatient treatment. This is especially true if the person has thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
What Are the Treatment Options for a Mental Breakdown?
Treatment options for a mental breakdown involve talk therapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications.
- Psychotherapies – Talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is the primary treatment for psychological or emotional stress. CBT entails detecting and modifying irrational thought patterns based on emotional beliefs and acquiring coping strategies to deal with difficult situations. Your doctor will discuss your individual treatment goals and design the appropriate CBT treatment for you.
- Medications – In addition to talk therapy, your doctor may prescribe medications to aid in managing your mental health crisis or diagnosed mental health condition. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are examples of such medications. If stress is causing insomnia, a sleep aid may be recommended to break the cycle of sleeplessness and lower your tension.
- Support groups – Participating in support groups or self-help groups can provide individuals undergoing a mental breakdown with numerous benefits by bringing together individuals who are experiencing or have experienced similar situations. A support group provides a safe environment where you can obtain practical, constructive advice and beneficial information. When searching for a local support group, your primary care physician, mental health professional, or local religious institution are often the best places to start. You can also search for a local meeting on the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and Mental Health America (MHA) websites.
In addition to psychotherapy, medications, and support groups, certain lifestyle changes can also help manage or prevent a nervous breakdown. These lifestyle changes include:
- Exercise at least three times a week, for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Incorporate relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and mindfulness practices, into your daily routine.
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
- Avoid coffee, alcohol, drugs, or other substances that may stress the body.
- Get enough sleep every night.
- Engage in enjoyable activities.
Residential Treatment for Mental Breakdown
Residential treatment programs for mental breakdowns incorporate a variety of evidence-based treatment modalities, such as individual therapy, group therapy and support group activities, and family therapy sessions that allow loved ones to take a positive role in your treatment. In addition to these therapies, you will also receive alternative holistic therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, and massage therapy throughout your stay at a residential treatment facility. If medications have been prescribed, their use will be closely checked and adjusted according to their efficacy.
The end goal of your treatment is to prevent further breakdowns. With attention to detail, a positive attitude, and assistance and support from a network of mental health professionals, mental health aides, wellness practitioners, and peer support professionals, your wellness journey will provide you with a more constructive, proactive, and long-term strategy for coping with stress in the future.
While mental breakdowns can be terrifying, finding timely treatment can help your loved one manage them and live a healthier life. Futures Recovery Healthcare works tirelessly to assist individuals and families in obtaining treatment and support for various mental health disorders, substance use disorders, and co-occurring disorders in a judgment-free environment. To learn more about our services, contact us online or call 866-804-2098.