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Identifying the Telltale Signs of a Nervous Breakdown


When we talk about having a nervous breakdown, we're often taken aback. Does anyone use that term anymore? Although the term may seem outdated, the condition is not, and people still experience nervous or mental breakdowns. Mental and nervous breakdowns are not clinical terms, and it is not considered a mental disorder. It is a total break with an individual's ability to manage their stress. They are drained, overwhelmed, and overcome by complete mental and physical breakdown.


Although several symptoms indicate a nervous or mental breakdown, these are the most common ones:

  1. Anxiety and stress leading to depression: Anxiety and depression are common reactions to prolonged stress. When you feel that you are not in control and there is nothing you can do to change the situation, you begin feeling fear, tension, and nervousness. This leads to overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, and feeling guilty that you can't handle this problem on your own.

  2. A heightened feeling of confusion and brain fog: As the stress wears on, you begin feeling mental confusion, forgetfulness, and an inability to focus.

  3. Fatigue and poor sleep: High levels of stress increase cortisol, which decreases your ability to sleep. As your sleep worsens, you no longer have the energy to carry out your daily routine, further depleting you and making you feel depressed. It becomes a vicious cycle of anxiety, stress, lack of sleep, and low energy, putting more stress on you to carry out your daily tasks at work and at home.

  4. Changes in appetite: The more stress and sleep deprivation you experience, the more your appetite changes. Many individuals begin having gastrointestinal problems with diarrhea or constipation. Others try to use food to comfort their feelings of lethargy and stress by eating high-fat foods, causing them to gain weight, which becomes part of the vicious cycle, ultimately causing lower self-esteem and a feeling that you cannot manage your stress any longer.

  5. Emotional breakdown: Lack of sleep, chronic stress, and fatigue make you feel weepy, and many times individuals complain of crying frequently prior to having a total mental breakdown. Crying is a healthy coping technique; however, when you feel like it happens frequently without warning, it feels as though you are out of control and increases your anxiety.


Anyone can develop a nervous breakdown, but the conditions most likely to cause them are financial stressors, chronic illnesses, and being an unexpected caretaker of a loved one. If you or a loved one is on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, there are things you can do that will make a difference.

  • Begin prioritizing and practicing self-care to soothe and calm your body. Things such as eating healthier and limiting your social media to increase good sleep hygiene.

  • Gratitude journaling and taking a sketching or painting class help build your self-esteem and offer a wonderful way to calm stress.

  • It is always a good idea to get involved in online or in-person therapy as well. Having a therapist you can talk to will help you gain insight into the personal issues causing you stress so you can begin making firmer boundaries and advocating for your needs.


When we prioritize our needs, we take responsibility for our reactions and can choose healthy behaviors that lower our stress and make us feel more in control. Stress is part of life, and feeling as if you could have a nervous breakdown is nothing to be ashamed of. Prioritizing yourself and your mental health is the first step in minimizing stress and helping you feel more resilient to its effects on your physical and emotional health.


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