The Symptoms and Treatments for a Nervous Breakdown

A nervous breakdown is serious and nothing to joke about, but there are treatments that will help you take control of your life again.

The phrase having a nervous breakdown is overused. You will hear students say they are going to have nervous breakdown if they fail a test, or a parent might say it to their child.

Usually it is just a phrase that actually means a tiny amount of stress, but there is nothing funny when someone actually feels like they are about to have a nervous breakdown.

What a Nervous Breakdown Is

A nervous breakdown is not a medical or clinical term and no doctor will diagnose someone as having one. It is not an illness or a disease. A nervous breakdown is a mental disorder or emotional deterioration that is usually brought on over time of prolonged stress, depression or possibly an underlying mental disorder.

When a person actually has a nervous breakdown, they no longer feel like doing their normal daily routines. They might not even be able to go to work, will stop talking to friends, stop eating and might stop all their normal routines like dressing and bathing

What Causes a Nervous Breakdown?

A nervous breakdown is usually caused by three conditions.

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • And sometimes an actual underlying mental condition

When these conditions are prolonged or become severe enough, the result can be a nervous breakdown.

Anxiety and a Nervous Breakdown

The cause is usually stress or anxiety and whatever brings those on. And in today’s world there are many reasons for continuing anxiety and stress that could lead to a nervous breakdown. Some of the more common reasons are:

  • Divorce
  • Death of a loved one
  • Loss of a job
  • Money problems
  • And many more

It can be one event, a series of events or prolonged stress that can cause anxiety and stress that actually build into a nervous breakdown. We all know what a moment of stress and anxiety feels like, the sweaty palms, fast heartbeat, shaking and upset stomach. When these symptoms continually occur on a regular basis or prolonged, that could lead to a nervous breakdown.

When Anxiety Becomes a Nervous Breakdown

This occurs when the person has had enough of the stress and the reasons for the stress.

When the cause is anxiety, the symptoms continue to get worse over time. You look back in time and realize you are no longer who you used to be. What was once mild stress is now become almost an unbelievable anxiety. It is the loss of control in your life that brings on the nervous breakdown.

Symptoms of severe anxiety or an actual nervous breakdown would include; your stomach jumping when the phone rings, anxiety when the mailman drops off anything and complete nausea from nerves when you hear a knock at the door.

You might always feel impatient, like waiting too long is going to turn into another problem. The “what’s next” feeling every time someone starts to speak to you. A person close to having or actually having a nervous breakdown will even avoid close friends.

One panic attack does not mean you are headed for a nervous breakdown, but having numerous panic attacks can lead to a nervous breakdown.


Depression and a Nervous Breakdown

Depression can also lead to a nervous breakdown, and these symptoms can happen to a woman or a man, there is no difference. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Constant crying without a reason that anyone else can see, just start crying all of a sudden.
  • Loss of appetite or binge eating
  • Loss of interest in their home life, jobs, hobbies or their daily activities
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Having a hard time making decisions and concentrating
  • Being restless and or agitated

Like anxiety, the symptoms might start out mild and get worse over time until the person feels only like a shadow of who they used to be once again causing the person to feel like they’ve lost control of their lives.

Mental Illness and a Nervous Breakdown

Sometimes an actual underlying mental condition can cause a nervous breakdown. Bipolar condition, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe anxiety disorder. These conditions may have been present before the nervous breakdown or are now caused because of the nervous breakdown.

A person who thinks they might be on the verge of having a nervous breakdown should be evaluated by a doctor for these conditions, before they worsen into a nervous breakdown.

If You Feel on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

 Do not hide from or ignore the underlying reasons or the symptoms and do not think that you have to be strong and fight through it. Either of these could make the conditions worse. Many times a person having a nervous breakdown will either be too embarrassed or refuse to seek medical treatment, if you know someone like this, try to persuade them that it would help them feel much better.

Try to calmly look at your situation and you might realize your life is not as bad as you think it is or that there are many more solutions than you first thought. Try to eliminate those things that have caused the stress or depression. But if you cannot and you continue to plow through and fight, you will only feed the anxiety, depression and helpless feelings.

That is when it is time to seek professional help.

Treatments for a Nervous Breakdown

The good news, just about everyone can recover from a nervous breakdown with proper treatment. Depending on the severity, it could take a couple of weeks to several months. It could either be on an outpatient basis or if the person is severe enough where they couldn’t take care of themselves, it could be in a hospital.

Psychotherapy is also called “the talking therapy” and can help a person through the nervous breakdown until they are ready to cope with life again.

SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is another form of depression that occurs in the fall and winter when the days become shorter and nights longer. There are therapies using light that can help.

A natural remedy for depression is SAM-e, which has been shown to be as effective as prescription medicines.

Avoid the Following

With any of the three conditions that could lead to a nervous breakdown, do not self-medicate with someone else’s medication and do not drink alcohol. Alcohol will worsen depression and the resulting hangover will worsen the anxiety until you are in a cycle of drinking while the underlying cause becomes worse.


If you have any of the above conditions and you feel them getting worse and taking over your life, do not be embarrassed to seek out professional help. You will get better and gain control of your feelings and life again.

© September 2010 Sam Montana


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