Nervous Breakdown: Causes, Symptoms, & Recovery

by Prachee last updated -

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Mental health awareness today is more sensitized than ever before. We are now keen on identifying the names of our mental health demons so that we can adapt our treatments to suit us best. Until a few years ago, this was quite difficult. A nervous breakdown, alternatively termed mental breakdown, was a reference to the state of mental unhealthiness that could hamper life and its everyday routine.

A nervous breakdown is not a clinically identified term. It is more popular as a layman’s description of unmanageable stressWhile it might not be technically accurate, it does help convey a lot about the situation.

What is a Nervous Breakdown?

Owing to a lack of scientific explanation, nervous breakdown is a generic term which describes a person’s inability to function to the fullest and being overwhelmed to the extent of not being able to carry on. It could be the collective result of multiple situations or conditions.

Till a few decades ago, it was used to describe the conditions of a person going through a difficult time and not able to cope with it. The medical community now is rather focused on treating individually identifiable conditions and disorders such as anxiety and depression, rather than treating a vaguely identifiable breakdown situation. Thus today, it is used unofficially, usually referring to some kind of mental health extreme being faced by a person.

woman suffering a nervous breakdown

Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown

The most telling sign of a nervous breakdown is a person’s inability to maintain a healthy state of body, mind, or both and failing to cope with basic routine activities. Apart from this, there are several behavioral and physical cues that you can look out for if a near and dear one might be on the verge of a mental breakdown. The symptoms of a nervous breakdown include:

  • Lack of focus
  • Tiredness, feeling exhausted
  • Impatience
  • Irritability
  • Lack of concern for hygiene
  • Anxiety
  • Fear or avoidance of routine situations
  • Too much, too little, or no sleep at all
  • Avoiding, or wanting to avoid, work, office, and other responsibilities
  • Withdrawal, or wanting to escape
  • Depression, or sadness and lack of motivation for a prolonged period
  • Menstrual irregularities in women
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal tendencies, lack of interest in life
  • Panic attacks, palpitations, breathing irregularities

Causes of a Nervous Breakdown

Like several mental health crisis situations, it is difficult to pin down a single or even multiple concrete causes of a nervous breakdown. It could be rooted in one or more experiences and could also be exacerbated due to pre-existing conditions. The triggers could be more recent situations such as pressure at work, loss, strained relationships, health concerns, or any life-altering change.

How to Cope with a Nervous Breakdown?

As soon as you spot these symptoms or suspect that you, or someone else, is on the verge of breaking down under stress, it is best to take medical help.

Meanwhile, take small steps to reduce your stress by either trying to sort out the cause of it or take time to unwind. Practice breathing, take a walk, listen to soothing music, eat healthily, or talk it out with a loved one. While none of these options is a solution, they will help you forward in the right direction.

Nervous Breakdown Recovery

It becomes even more important to maintain your health to the best possible standards when recovering from a nervous breakdown. Here are a few things you could practice after having experienced a nervous breakdown:

  • Seek professional help: Talking to a therapist can help you break patterns that are causing stress in your life.
  • Maintain a healthy routine: This will include healthy food, regular sleep, and an overall positive attitude
  • Practice physical activity: It doesn’t have to be a heavy workout. A 15-minute jog, stretching, yoga, or a dance session will also do.
  • Eat right: Prefer homemade wholesome food. Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and sugar, if possible.
  • Take breaks: Take out time for self-care. Take small breaks during a workday. Take longer breaks to do what gives you joy.
  • Sleep: Go to bed every day at the same time and wake up at the same time every day. Take steps to improve the quality of sleep.
  • Maintain your hygiene routine: Be it a bath, making your bed, brushing your hair, or keeping your workspace organized. Look forward to it as a part of you and resist the urge to skip these small steps.


Nervous breakdown is not a technically recognized term. Used otherwise, it refers to the state of a mental health crisis which could include one or many things. It is best to seek out professional help if you experience a mental breakdown. Recovery is possible and there are always reasons to keep hope. Protection Status
About the Author

Prachee is a content writer for Organic Facts and is responsible for writing on the latest wellness trends. A former Journalism & Media teacher, she prides herself on being able to seamlessly dabble between health, science, and technology. She has completed her Masters in Communication Studies from the University of Pune, India as well as an online course on “Introduction to Food and Health” from Stanford University, US. Prachee fancies herself to be a poet and a cook when the rare lightning of inspiration strikes.

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