What to do if you have a nervous breakdown?

Nervous breakdown can affect your ability to function in daily life. Here's what to do when you have a nervous breakdown.
View All Images A woman having a nervous breakdown
Nervous breakdown can affect your life. Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 12 May 2024, 01:30 pm IST
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Sometimes in life, situations become so emotionally and physically overwhelming that you crumble under pressure and end up having a nervous breakdown. Also known as a mental or emotional breakdown, a nervous breakdown is a period of intense psychological distress that can significantly impair your ability to function properly due to the overwhelming stress and poor quality of sleep. Let us tell you the meaning of nervous breakdown and what to do if it strikes you.

What is a nervous breakdown?

A nervous breakdown is not a clinical term, but a layperson’s description of a severe mental health crisis, says psychologist Neha Dutt. It typically involves a sudden onset of overwhelming stress, emotions, and inability to cope, leading to a significant disruption in one’s ability to function normally. The duration of a nervous breakdown varies greatly depending on the individual, the severity of the crisis, and the effectiveness of interventions. It can last for a few hours, days, weeks, or even months if left untreated.

A woman having a nervous breakdown
A nervous breakdown can last for a few hours or months. Image courtesy: Freepik

The diagnosis of a nervous breakdown is typically based on a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health expert. There will be a thorough assessment of symptoms, medical history, and any underlying mental health conditions.

What are the symptoms of a nervous breakdown?

You may cry if you have a nervous breakdown. Stress, along with fatigue and lack of sleep may make you feel like crying more than usual, according to a 2016 study published in the Sage Journals. Other symptoms of a nervous breakdown may include:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Overwhelming stress
  • Emotional numbness or detachment insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair Thoughts of self-harm

What are the causes of a nervous breakdown?

Nervous breakdowns can be triggered by a combination of stressors, including:

  • Chronic stress
  • Traumatic life events such as loss of a loved one, divorce or unemployment
  • Underlying mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Overwhelming responsibilities
  • Lack of social support
  • Poor coping skills.

What to do if you are on the verge of a nervous breakdown?

If you think that you are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, do the following:

1. Time out

If you are actively engaged in a situation that is too stressful for you, take your personal time out. Remove yourself from that environment and give some time to calm your mind and body.

2. Practice deep breathing exercises

Close your mouth and use your nose to breathe deeply. Hold for two seconds then breathe out slowly. Do this till you feel better. You can also try relaxation techniques like meditation, suggests Dutt.

3. Consult a doctor

Call your doctor feel if you feel overwhelmed by the situation. A therapist or psychiatrist can help with a proper diagnosis and give you the right treatment options. Cognitive-behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, or other forms of talk therapy can help identify and address underlying issues if you have any, and then develop coping strategies.

4. Support system

Reach out to your family members or friends who will understand you and provide comfort during stressful times. You can also check with support groups.

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5. Consider medication

If a psychiatrist gives you prescribed drugs, you can have them. Some medications like antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help alleviate symptoms and stabilise mood.

A woman having a nervous breakdown
Prescribed medications may help when you have a nervous breakdown. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How to support someone having a nervous breakdown?

If not you, your family or friends may need help.

  • Provide a safe space for them to express their feelings and concerns without fear of criticism.
  • Help with daily tasks or responsibilities to alleviate some of their stress.
  • Suggest therapy or psychiatric evaluation and offer to accompany them to appointments if needed.
  • Recovery takes time, and setbacks may occur, so offer your support throughout their journey.
  • Learn about mental health conditions and treatment options to better understand their experiences and needs.
  • Supporting someone with a nervous breakdown can be emotionally taxing, so prioritise your own self-care and seek support if needed.

How to prevent nervous breakdown?

It is not always possible to prevent a nervous breakdown, but some strategies may help reduce the risk:

  • Practice stress management techniques regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, balanced diet, and adequate sleep.
  • Build strong social support networks.
  • Set realistic goals and priorities to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
  • Learn to say no to excessive demands and share tasks with others whenever possible.

Anyone can experience a nervous breakdown, but how to handle stress is all that matters.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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