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Signs and Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown

Signs of a nervous breakdown occur in many people. Read on to learn about nervous breakdown causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

signs of a nervous breakdown

Article Contents

What is a Nervous Breakdown?

A nervous breakdown or emotional breakdown describes a period of experiencing a significant level of emotional and mental stress. The stress is typically significant enough to affect day-to-day activities. Hence, individuals with a severe mental breakdown are usually cannot function in everyday life.1

Origin of the Term ‘Nervous Breakdown’

During the early days, the term nervous breakdown or severe mental breakdown was usually for describing conditions like anxiety, acute stress disorder, and depression. There’s no specific medical term for a nervous breakdown. The mental breakdown is not an official diagnosis of a particular condition.

“Nervous breakdown” was once a term for describing legitimate mental illness symptoms. However, the term is now less popular among clinicians or mental health professionals. Individuals experiencing certain mental health conditions still turn to the phrase as it helps describe certain symptoms.

Types of Nervous Breakdowns

The term nervous breakdown is common among people to describe stress symptoms and the inability to cope with daily activities. Even though there’s no medical term for a nervous breakdown, there are two major types of mental breakdown crisis: acute and chronic. Both types can involve feelings of anger, fear, or despair.

How Serious is a Nervous Breakdown?

A nervous breakdown is a serious condition that mental health professionals treat as a mental health crisis. Health experts typically act immediately to diagnose the mental illnesses contributing to the breakdown that requires attention. Mental breakdown symptoms can get very severe. Hence, reaching out to a licensed expert early for mental breakdown help is imperative.

Signs and Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown

The signs of a nervous breakdown vary, depending on the individual. In most cases, the underlying cause of the breakdown can also influence the symptoms of a nervous breakdown in adults.

All symptoms of the condition can be physical, psychological, or behavioral. Some individuals use medication for nervous breakdown to control the symptoms better. If you observe someone having a mental breakdown or nervous system breakdown, consult a licensed professional for mental breakdown help.

Indications of a Nervous Breakdown

Here are the significant signs of a nervous breakdown to note:

  • Rapid mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Decreased libido
  • Anhedonia
  • A constant state of physical exhaustion
  • Panic attacks
  • Social isolation
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Feelings of fear and worry
  • Muscle pains

Causes of a Nervous Breakdown

Nervous breakdown or nervous system breakdown doesn’t have just one specific cause. Any event that causes stress can trigger the condition. Possible causes of mental breakdown will be detailed below.


Physical and emotional abuse is one of the major causes of mental breakdown. Victims of abuse may experience anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, and low self-esteem.

The abuser may also exert shame and guilt, making the individual lack self-confidence and significant stress levels. Hence, individuals cannot continue with their day-to-day activities and require nervous breakdown treatment.

Speaking to a mental health expert for advice for mental or nervous system breakdown is imperative.

Academic Problems or Pressures

Academic pressure is when a child feels burdened by demands of energy and time to achieve certain academic goals. For instance, many young adults may unconsciously impose academic pressures on themselves due to a competitive mindset.

With time, the academic pressures make individuals develop both physical and emotional symptoms of stress and may break down mentally. These levels of stress can cause breakdown mentally. Hence, individuals may require nervous breakdown treatment. Consult a licensed mental health professional for an appropriate nervous breakdown treatment plan.

Death of a Loved One

Unexpected loss can cause various unwanted feelings of grief and depression, making individuals break down mentally. Some individuals develop complicated bereavement disorder due to the loss. Hence, they feel trapped in their pain and sense of loss after the death of their loved ones. Due to their depressed feelings, individuals become unable to handle daily activities.2


Most people going through a divorce also experience depression, feelings of hopelessness, and social withdrawal. When it’s traumatic, divorce can also cause physical problems relating to psychological trauma, which includes the development of eating disorders.

In some cases, one or both parties may also experience substance use disorder. With time, one or both individuals may develop symptoms of a nervous breakdown in adults.

Financial Problems

Financial problems are a leading cause of stress among adults and younger individuals. When an individual experiences financial stress, they feel less motivated to go through their daily activities. With time, financial stress may be overwhelming and take a huge toll on an individual’s overall mental and physical health.

Job Loss

For certain individuals, job loss can signify the loss of purpose and a reasonable financial source. It becomes more severe for those who have families to take care of regularly. Losing a job can affect an individual’s mood and cause a mental breakdown, crying, and sadness. Individuals may find it difficult to perform typical daily tasks after losing their jobs.


When moving from one house to another, individuals may feel like their life is on pause. Hence, they focus all their attention and energy on moving to the new location. People also invest money and a significant amount of time in the activity.

The stress that arises due to moving can trigger an emotional breakdown. When this occurs, it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional to help recover from a nervous breakdown.


After a traumatic event, the body’s defenses act and create a stress response. Individuals may experience increased blood pressure, sweating, heart rate, and reduced stomach activity. Over time, individuals may feel symptoms like anxiety and depression. Trauma can cause a panic attack and nervous breakdowns in individuals.3

Work-Related Stress

Work-related stress is a response when individuals get assigned to certain responsibilities beyond their scope of knowledge. Note that work-related stress is very common in various work environments and may lead to a panic attack and nervous breakdown when extreme.

How Long Might a Nervous Breakdown Last?

signs of a nervous breakdown
Depending on the cause, people suffering from a mental breakdown can experience it for a few hours to a few weeks. Due to the characteristics of a nervous breakdown, other factors can contribute to it. These include undiagnosed mental illnesses or coping strategies for stress.
It’s imperative to consult a professional for a mental breakdown test when a physical breakdown occurs. A licensed professional will provide help through your nervous breakdown recovery.

What’s the Difference Between a Psychotic Break and a Nervous Breakdown?

Psychotic break vs. nervous breakdown differs. Psychotic break only refers to experiencing an episode of psychosis. However, a nervous breakdown psychosis may also include the possibility of experiencing an episode. A psychotic break signifies the first occurrence of psychotic symptoms for an individual or the unexpected onset of psychotic symptoms after remission.4

What Can I Do to Prevent or Reduce My Risk of Having a Nervous Breakdown?

Individuals can reduce their risks of developing an emotional breakdown by taking certain imperative steps for overall healthy living. These include:
  • Learn strategies to relax
  • Take care of yourself
  • Get organized and take breaks
  • Get counseling

Find Help for Nervous Breakdown Treatment at Iris Healing®

If you or your loved one is dealing with a nervous breakdown, reach out to a mental health professional early. Professionals at Iris Healing® will help determine the cause of the mental breakdown crisis with a nervous breakdown test and diagnose related health conditions. Contact Iris Healing® for help through your nervous breakdown recovery journey.

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