The latest articles to help you maintain mental, physical and spiritual wellness.

What are the Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown?

We all have our limits in life. A nervous breakdown is a manifestation that we have hit the limit on how much we can cope with in life.  Someone undergoing a nervous breakdown exhibits a complete inability to function in the day to day activities of life.  It is often a temporary situation where your mental faculties become “jammed” and you are temporarily paralyzed. You lose your sense of the rational and begin showing signs of the irrational.

People undergo nervous breakdown if they face extremely demanding emotional and physical situations that stretch their faculties to the limits. Someone who is subjected to extreme emotional pressures may undergo a nervous breakdown indicating they have surpassed the upper limits of the “stress test”.

It can best be compared to material that is subjected to excessive strain. The material eventually buckles under the excessive strain when it reaches the breaking point. Some people end up with a mental state that is very similar to that of stretched elastic. They can only endure so much. If you apply the pressure further, they eventually snap and lose their sense of mental and emotional proportion. While nervous breakdown is not a medical condition, it is a very unhealthy response to stress.  Someone who suffers from a nervous breakdown most likely have other underlying mental health problems such as excessive anxiety or even depression.

The symptoms of nervous breakdown typically vary from one person to another depending on the underlying mental condition that is contributing to the nervous breakdown. It will also vary from one culture to another. Different cultures have different ways and approaches of handling physical and emotional pressures in life.  There are, however, common symptoms of nervous breakdown that you can look for in most people. These include the following

Depressive Symptoms

Clinical depression can be a sign that you are likely to experience a nervous breakdown. Depression is likely to trigger the kind of mental crises that will cause the nervous breakdown.  This can manifest itself in many ways. For example, you may start losing interest in the things that you once enjoyed. You may lose appetite, gain weight rapidly or lose weight rapidly. You may suffer from lack of sleep and begin entertaining thoughts of suicide or even self mutilation. All these can be precursors to a breakdown.

Extreme anxiety

Extreme anxiousness is another sign of a potential nervous breakdown.  These will show in symptoms such as the rise in the blood pressure, tensed body muscles, hands that are clammy along with trembling and shaking. Other signs that you may experience include increased dizziness along with stomach upset.

Extreme mood swings

Extreme mood swings or sudden outbursts are another sign of a potential nervous breakdown.  These usually indicate an underlying condition in the person’s mental well-being such as bipolar disorder.

Panic Attacks

Whenever you are faced with situations of anxiety and depressions, you may suffer panic attacks. These come with their own symptoms including an increase in the blood pressure, extreme feeling of fear of the unknown, and a feeling of detachment from one’s self. Panic attacks can have adverse effects on people. For example, they will fear going out more often and are likely to withdraw from society. With panic attacks, people are more likely fear going out in public, fear open spaces and withdraw to a cocoon in a little corner of their world.


Paranoia is another sign of a possible nervous breakdown. When people develop a fear that someone is following them or is after them, then they will most likely experience a diminished ability to cope with the storms that life will throw their way. The inability to cope may eventually lead to a nervous breakdown.  If you are suffering from fears that are unhealthy or unfounded, then it is important to seek medical attention early on.

Social withdrawal

Social withdrawal is another psychological condition that may lead to a nervous breakdown. When people face certain mental health crises, they may withdraw from their closest friends, family and even colleagues.  There are certain social settings as well as expectations that will drive some people to go to extremes and begin isolating themselves from society. Such people will find great comfort from social withdrawal rather than in social interaction. Pressure from society is one of the main leading causes of social withdrawal. When people feel that they are constantly being judged by the significant others, and they are unable to live up to other people’s expectations, they will tend to withdraw from society into their own little world.

In Japan, this phenomenon is called Hikikimori where some young and middle aged people live in seclusion and withdraw themselves from society sometimes for decades.

The flashbacks of some traumatic events

This also boils down to your ability to cope with stress and strain. Some traumatic events  in the past, particularly those involving extreme violence and death, may trigger a complete mental breakdown in some people.  Sometimes, these flashbacks will cause post-traumatic stress disorder which can be diagnosed and treated.

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.