A breakdown is usually seen as the moment when you have reached your ‘breaking point’. When we have reached a point where we are unable to cope with a stressful situation. Although we all experience stress and anxiety, these are usually at levels that are manageable. It is when the stress and anxiety builds up to a level that impacts the individual's life that this is called a breakdown. Mental or nervous breakdown is not a medical term, it is a general term - this is because it isn't a specific condition.
There are different causes of a breakdown, for example, a pre-existing mental illness such as Bipolar Disorder. In Bipolar Disorder the person’s natural cycles of arousal are pushed to their extremes and they need medical help to stabilise their extreme mood swings.
Another form of breakdown can be described as ‘emergence’. This is where the individual is experiencing something new and may not be able to function easily because of the change. This then reaches a breakthrough for the individual because of the transition from an old way of being to a new way of being. The most common trigger of a breakdown is stress. This can be because of a trauma that is recent or that may have been deeply buried.
There are many factors that can contribute to the stress that may lead to a breakdown. Many big life events may push you to a breakdown because you may have difficulty dealing with the stress that they bring. For example, the breakdown of a relationship, loss of job or some other sort of trauma will lead to a lot of stress within your life and you may find that this will push you to a breakdown. Another factor that a lot of people always have to deal with is the stress of work.
Some of these circumstances such as the stress of work may stimulate you and therefore, will help you to achieve at work. These circumstances are healthy because there is a positive outcome to the stress. However, if the stress becomes too much this may lead to a breakdown because the body is unable to cope with the amount of stress and the person has not learnt ways of thinking to cope with the demands.
What are the symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of a mental/nervous breakdown are an indication that you have reached your limit. We all have a limit, and there's a limit to how much you can cope with too. Mental and emotional signs and symptoms include:
- Feelings of isolation - withdrawal from loved ones
- Difficulty concentrating - getting easily distracted, trouble focusing
- Low mood, depression, burn-out, emotional outbursts
- Feelings of detachment - from situations, not feeling like yourself
- Hallucinations, flashbacks
- Thoughts of self harm
Physical signs and symptoms include:
- Exhaustion - you may lack the energy to complete routine tasks
- Frequent illness
- Insomnia - difficulty sleeping
- Sweats - hot or cold flushes
- Muscle Pain - your muscles feel tensed and painful
- Irregular heart beat - you can feel your heart pounding
Dealing with the root of the problem will help a breakdown. For instance, if the cause is to do with the stresses of your job then you may need to look at a different career path or learn techniques that build your resilience. You may be able to find a solution to the problem yourself, however, professional help should also be considered if you need a little extra help.