Mental or nervous breakdowns occur when you have reached your stress limit and everything has become physically and emotionally overwhelming. You reach a point where day-to-day functioning becomes out of the question, leaving you withdrawn. They can happen to anyone at anytime, as we all have our limits, but it is important to realize that a breakdown could signify more serious underlying problems. For example, many people who experience breakdowns also suffer from anxiety or depression. Thankfully, we can get help with any underlying problems and understand what has led us to have a breakdown.

A breakdown indicates that the person experiencing it is no longer able to function properly in day-to-day life. Breakdowns tend to be short-term, but if the problems behind the breakdown are never solved, they can continue for long periods of time and become detrimental health-wise. When someone goes through a mental breakdown, it is a sign that they are overwhelmed, burnt out, overworked, or have reached a level of stress that is beyond their handling capabilities. They may feel the need to “give up” on certain aspects of their life, if only temporarily. It is okay to give yourself a break when you really need it, but if this break from life lasts longer than a typical break period or even becomes permanent, the consequences could become dire.

How/When Breakdowns Can Harm Someone

Everyone experiences and reacts to breakdowns in different ways because there are many different potential underlying problems. Sometimes it is due to something specific, such as divorce or a problem at work, but often times these breakdowns are a sign of something bigger. Those who have depression might experience suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, or even hurt themselves during their breakdowns. People with anxiety might experience more physical symptoms of a nervous breakdown, such as tensed muscles, trembling, dizziness, an upset stomach, and high blood pressure. Those who are bipolar might experience intense mood swings. If the breakdown is brought on from flashbacks of traumatic events, the underlying problem could be PTSD.

Even if there is no underlying issue, however, breakdowns can still be harmful. A panic attack brought on from a breakdown causes one to feel detached from reality or from themselves, an intense level of fear, high blood pressure, chest pain, and even difficulty breathing. It is also possible to experience hallucinations during a breakdown. Feelings of fear, phobias, and paranoia are also possible. Someone may feel the need to alienate or isolate themselves from everyone else, including friends and family, for an extended period of time. This is because social situations tend to worsen breakdowns. Someone may go through other lifestyle changes as well, such as different eating and sleeping cycles, or poor hygiene, which can cause them to feel physically unwell even if they are okay mentally.

Breakdowns And External Relationships

Even if the breakdown is short-term, it can still end up affecting many people depending on what happens (or doesn’t happen) during said breakdown. Someone may suddenly decide to stop working for a while, thus affecting their co-workers who may have to pick up the slack. They might also decide to stop going to school or participating in group activities, affecting their peers. Relationships can be completely severed by breakdowns, especially in cases where the person chooses to isolate themselves from friends and family. Many people may take the isolation as a sign that the person never wants to speak with them again.

It can also create conflicts with other people who have expectations that differ from what the affected person can perform. Many people who have not experienced a breakdown firsthand can be naively unsympathetic, which could make the affected person feel worse about themselves and cause their breakdown to worsen or last longer. It can be difficult for others to accept the fact that someone need a break because they are not seeing what is making life so overwhelming for that person. Other people might even feel angry toward the person having a breakdown.

How Therapy Can Help

Mental breakdowns might make us feel as though there is no hope in sight—how can we ever get our lives back in order after this mess? Luckily, therapy can help us work through why we are experiencing a breakdown and come up with a variety of solutions. A therapist could help you realize an underlying problem that has been affecting you for years that you didn’t realize you had until the breakdown occurred. Therapy can aid us in getting our lives back on track, or even altering our current lifestyles to reflect changes we need to make. For example, if you became overwhelmed at work because it’s not something you enjoy doing and you were perhaps cut out for a different line of work, part of a healthy lifestyle change might be quitting your current job and seeking out a different, more fulfilling industry. There is always a way we can move forward.

Help Us Improve This Article

Did you find an inaccuracy? We work hard to provide accurate and scientifically reliable information. If you have found an error of any kind, please let us know by sending an email to, please reference the article title and the issue you found.

Share Therapedia With Others