A mental breakdown: what is it and how do you deal with one

A mental breakdown: what is it and how do you deal with one


Mental health problems affect millions of people around the world. Fortunately, people are more mindful of the benefits of prioritizing their mental health in the modern age, and the stigma associated with seeking help is gradually fading away. One prevalent mental health issue that requires emergency attention is a mental breakdown.

Also known as a nervous breakdown, a mental breakdown is a period of extreme mental distress that causes a severely decreased inability to function normally. It is normal for everyone to feel overwhelmed from time to time by daily stressors, which can lead to anxiety, stress, and even the inability to cope. In contrast, a mental breakdown makes you feel extremely overwhelmed, anxious, and unable to cope with daily life.

What causes a mental breakdown?

A mental breakdown often follows some sort of trigger or triggers. When it happens, it means you are already exposed to a high level of stress combined with unhealthy coping mechanisms. A mental breakdown is a severe mental health issue that needs immediate attention from a mental and behavioral health provider. The stress could have accumulated over time or due to a sudden series of stressful events.

A mental breakdown is different for everyone. Therefore, the stress level a person can endure before they break is unique to them. Also, poor coping skills contribute to the mental breakdown. Moreover, an underlying mental health issue can lead to a mental breakdown. For example, persons with anxiety disorders are more susceptible to mental breakdowns.

Additionally, people with unhealthy coping skills for stress, for instance, those who develop substance use disorder to ease stress, are also prone to mental breakdowns. As such, it is crucial to seek immediate professional help from a mental health provider if you or your loved one experiences a mental breakdown.

Signs of a mental breakdown

Some warning signs of a mental breakdown include:

  • Changes in eating, sleeping, and self-care routines.
  • Inability to perform daily tasks at work or school.
  • Feeling extremely overwhelmed and excessive amounts of pressure.
  • Intense feelings of anxiety and stress.
  • Inability to concentrate or focus.
  • Feeling lazy.
  • More alcohol or drug use to cope with the stress.

Physical signs of a mental breakdown include:

  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Feeling soreness or muscle tightness.
  • Gastrointestinal issues.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Extreme back pain.

A mental breakdown can sometimes be mistaken for an anxiety attack or panic attack as they manifest in similar symptoms. As earlier said, a mental breakdown comes with the inability or a severely decreased ability to perform daily tasks such as:

  • Missing work or school.
  • Poor performance in work or school.
  • Poor self-care.
  • Withdrawal from social situations.
  • Missing appointments and commitments.

Identifying these signs is important to seek professional help or help a loved one seek help. Seeking help early can prevent a mental breakdown from happening.

The takeaway

If you or your loved one has, is about to have, or has recently had a mental breakdown, you should consider inpatient treatment. That way, they can undergo therapy, medication, and education about mental health and even learn healthy coping mechanisms.

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Infographic created by MD Infusions, a provider of ketamine treatment for mood disorders