world mental health

What is Nervous Breakdown?

The term “nervous breakdown” is sometimes used to describe a stressful situation, in which someone becomes temporarily dysfunctional   in day-to-day life.

 It’s commonly understood to occur when life’s demands become physically and emotionally overwhelming.

 Nervous Breakdown is not a clinical term. There is no psychiatric definition of a nervous breakdown and it has nothing to do with nervesBut that does not mean it is a normal or a healthy response to stress.

It may indicate an underlying mental health problem that needs attention, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder or something else.

Most of us take these symptoms lightly or we are quick to judge the person, saying he or she is going mad. It is painful to see the any person or the loved one with it.

But the reference to a nervous breakdown usually refers to the fact that the person has basically stopped his/her daily routine- going to work, interacting with loved ones or friends, even just getting out of bed to eat or shower. 

It can be seen as a sign that one’s ability to cope with life or a mental illness has been overwhelmed by stress, life events, work or relationship issues.

Symptoms of nervous breakdown:

Symptoms of nervous breakdown include negative feelings, such as feelings of nervousness and stress.

A nervous breakdown usually corresponds to the period of high stress in one’s life, or a time when one feels that they just cannot take it anymore.

Common symptoms of nervous breakdown-

  • Crying
  • Dizziness
  • Fast paced thinking
  • Feeling of worry, fear, anxiety or stress
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

  • Inability to take care of your basic needs
  • Thoughts of self harm or harming others

It  may  be a result from a variety of other situations including:

  • Certain medications
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Long-term stress
  • Recalling stressful memories
  • Stressful events

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of anxiety disorders
  • Inadequate sleep and relaxation
  • Ongoing stress, such as stress from work
  • Personnel history of anxiety disorder
  • Recent illness or injury
  • Recent stressful live events, such as divorce, financial problems etc.
  • Sense of inadequate support from others
  • Poor performance in studies


  • Life style modification, including relaxation, techniques and scheduled sleeping.
  • Medications, such as anti-anxiety, anti depressants, if there is a chemical imbalance.
  • Therapy such as talk or cognitive behavioural therapy by a psychologist or psychiatrist can be availed.
  • Getting regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation.

A single incidence of nervous breakdown may not have any complications. One may be able to treat it with lifestyle modification and counseling.

However, in serious cases can lead to a more severe disorder.

If you are concerned that you are experiencing a nervous breakdown, get help.

If you have a primary care doctor, talk to him or her about your signs and symptoms or seek help from a mental health provider.

A nervous breakdown is not a condition to be afraid of, as it is simply an indication of overwhelming stress and mental illness in a person’s life.

Loved ones and friends of someone who is suffering from a nervous breakdown should be supportive of the individual’s efforts in seeking help for it.

contributed by Ms Jyoti Bernard Clinical Psycholgist at Tulasi Health Care. For queries email on [email protected]

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