Signs & Symptoms of Nervous Break-down

Signs And Symptoms Of A Nervous Breakdown

Signs or symptoms that indicate a person is possibly facing a nervous breakdown can vary from person to person. The terms “nervous breakdown” and “mental breakdown” have not been formally defined through a diagnostic system such as the DSM-IV or ICD-10, and are nearly absent from current scientific literature regarding mental illness. Although “nervous breakdown” does not necessarily have a rigorous or static definition, surveys of laypersons suggest that the term refers to a specific acute time-limited reactive disorder, involving symptoms such as anxiety or depression, usually precipitated by external stressors.

Specific cases are sometimes described as a “breakdown” only after a person becomes unable to function in day-to-day life.


Stress (psychological): Causes of such breakdowns are varied. A 1996 study found that problems with intimate relationships, such as divorce or marital separation, contributed to 24% of nervous breakdowns. Problems at work and school accounted for 17% of cases, and financial problems for 11%. Surveys suggest that in the United States, health problems have decreased in importance as a contributor to nervous breakdowns, as these accounted for 28% of nervous breakdowns in 1957, 12% in 1976, and only 5.6% in 1996. Though in themselves, nervous breakdowns are considered a “health problem” by most professionals.

Here are 10 more common signs that indicate a person may be facing a nervous breakdown, if they are accompanied by the inability to stay resilient:

1. Signs of depression: Indicators of serious, profound depression can definitely trigger a nervous breakdown. Thoughts of suicide, self-mutilation, loss of interest in life, or loss of all hope are very serious indicators. Professional help should be sought immediately, as a life can be saved.

2. Signs of anxiety: Extreme anxiousness with an abrupt setting may signify the person is experiencing a mental breakdown. Other signs of anxiety, such as high blood pressure, clenched or tensed muscles, clammy hands, trembling or shaking, dizziness or upset stomach all signify the beginning of a nervous breakdown. These signs and symptoms are typically triggered by fears or phobias.

3. Extreme mood swings: Mood swings that are so serious, they severely affect surrounding individuals is a signal of a nervous breakdown. It can also indicate the possibility of bipolar disorder, a form of mental condition.

4. Hallucination: Seeing the false as truth can be an indicator of a nervous breakdown, as well as other underlying medical conditions. Sometimes, these hallucinations may prove to be harmful for the affected individual as well as his or her surroundings. For example, the affected individual may be imagining a false deity dictating commands to hurt others.

5. Panic attacks: Panic attacks can go hand-in-hand with signs of anxiety. Symptoms may include high blood pressure, pounding chest pain, difficulty breathing, feelings of unreality, an extreme level of fear and detachment from self.

6. Paranoia: Similar to phobias and fear, paranoia can indicate a mental breakdown. The feeling and insecurity of having someone watching and following you can be extremely stressful and mentally detrimental. Seek help if you feel you are really being stalked and have evidence; also seek medical help if you feel like it is only in your head.

7. Lifestyle changes: Significant lifestyle changes, such as changes in the sleep cycle, radical weight gain or loss, lack of hygiene or poor eating habits can indicate a nervous breakdown. Sometimes, a person may initially feel mentally well, but physically unwell due to these involuntary lifestyle changes. In this case, it may be your body signaling the need of a rest or time to recuperate. If these issues are not adjusted, mental stress may follow and lead to a full-blown breakdown.

8. Alienation: People who are facing a nervous breakdown may tend to isolate themselves from others, especially friends and family. Sometimes, they may just need some time to be alone and recuperate from a hectic situation, but when the isolation persists for an extended period of time, this may be an indicator of a possible nervous breakdown. Social settings may cause further stress, so the person may choose to alienate himself or herself.

9. Loss of interest: If a person who used to love his or her work suddenly calls in sick frequently, that individual may be showing signs of depression and can evenutally lead to a nervous breakdown. Loss of interest of things that used to be exciting can spiral out of control if help is not sought. Confide in a close friend or a loved one and seek others for help.

10. Flashbacks of a traumatic event: Often times, traumatic events in a person’s past can trigger symptoms of a nervous breakdown. It can also indicate an underlying case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Seek the help of a professional if you suspect PTSD is the main contributor to a nervous breakdown.

Bottom Line

If you or someone you know is experiencing intense levels of any signs or symptoms listed above, it would be helpful to seek professional help. While nervous breakdowns may happen to anyone, these signs may just indicate an underlying mental condition – you may end up saving a life.

Nervous Breakdown Recovery

Gone are the days where a person was termed ‘lunatic’ or ostracized from society just because he suffered a psychological breakdown. Recovery from such a breakdown is not only possible but also essential. Recovery from a breakdown requires two very important things – care and time. It is advisable to visit a psychiatrist or psychologist to get the problem assessed and to aid the recovery process.

While dealing with a person going through an emotional breakdown, it is important to remember that the person has hit a mental block and is not able to find a way out of it. There are chances that previously, the person did swim through the highest tide but now this small tide seems to be even larger than the highest of tides.

The person often speaks incoherently about a situation and also to people. Many a time, the person realizes his mistake but is not able to tackle the situation. It has been noticed that people who suffer physical, sexual and emotional abuse take longer than the people who have a mental breakdown due to trauma to recover from it. Often, people recover to a large extent from the breakdown symptoms but take longer to completely recover from it. At the same time, they are vulnerable to depression and anxiety.

The family members should pay attention to each other’s behavior, so that they are able to notice any behavioral change such as violent behavior, stress, depression, etc. Prevention of mental breakdowns has been a neglected area of study, although research has been started now in this area as well.

If a near and a dear one is suffering from a psychological breakdown, remember that it’s good to talk about it to people who have faced the same problem. This way, you will get clues which will aid in the recovery process.


Mayo Clinic

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