The feeling of being overwhelmed or having reached a physical and emotional limit for dealing with life's stresses and pressures is labelled a nervous breakdown. What distinguishes a breakdown from the stress most people feel from time to time, is that these feelings prevent someone from functioning normally. Breakdowns happen to many people for a variety of different reasons and the symptoms may vary from person to person.
How Breakdowns Are Caused
While the reasons are different for each person, according to psychiatrist Dr. Cosmo Hallstorm, there are three common inter-linking factors which cause people to have breakdowns. He points toward an interaction between a person's emotional strength, genetic predisposition and an external event which acts as a trigger for the breakdown. Catalysts include major life events such as divorce, being fired, becoming a parent, death of a loved one, but breakdowns may also result from the culmination of several smaller pressures experienced in daily life.
Most commonly, people experiencing a breakdown have feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and depression. Breakdowns result from and exacerbate feelings of incompetence and an inability to cope. People going through a breakdown may be overcome with sensations of fear, panic, irritability and anger. Many tend to withdraw from loved ones and have a loss of pleasure for things that they would normally enjoy, including a loss of libido.
A person's behavior can provide an indication of how well a person is coping with stress. People who avoid social engagements, miss appointments, call in sick for work for days at a time or just do not seem to be their usual self, may be experiencing a breakdown. Other behavior signs include difficulty concentrating, talking less, as well as crying easily and unexpectedly.
A nervous breakdown could manifest itself through a range of physical symptoms including loss of appetite, exhaustion and insomnia. An upset stomach, light-headedness, heart irregularity, trembling, sweating and muscle pain are also symptoms. Some people become physically ill with a cold for example, and are very slow or unable to recover, while for others breakdowns trigger pre-existing health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, migraine and eczema. A nervous breakdown may also be indicative of a more serious underlying mental health issue, such as bipolar disorder.
- Mayo Clinic; What Does It Mean to Have a Nervous Breakdown?; Daniel K Hall-Flavin MD
- Professional-Counselling; Mind and Relationship Matters; 'Nervous Breakdown' Signs and Symptoms; Elly Prior
- The Guardian.co.uk: "The Observer"; Nervous Breakdown; Ursula Kenny; September 2000
- Uncommon Help; Spotting Nervous Breakdown Symptoms; Mark Tyrrell
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images