Common Signs of a Mental Breakdown

Common Signs of a Nervous Mental Breakdown

Are you feeling stressed to the point of snapping? Have you undergone major life changes or challenges lately? Have you recently experienced symptoms that are making daily life difficult? If so, you may be in danger of, or already experiencing, a nervous breakdown, also called a mental breakdown.

Though these terms are not officially used by the medical community, they are ingrained in our culture. In previous decades, when mental health awareness was less-developed, people might generalize their conditions or stress responses as “breakdowns.”

In severe cases, these people might take some time to recover in isolation or in an asylum. Perhaps these associations, including the archaic ways in which mental health was once handled (and stigmatized), have led people away from commonly using such terms today.

But, despite this concept’s outdated connotations, the symptoms associated with nervous or mental breakdowns do require attention. Let’s delve a little deeper to find out about the many ways this issue might manifest for individuals, as well as its potential causes, prevention strategies, and treatments.

Nervous breakdowns are a matter of both nature and nurture. But certain populations may be more susceptible to being impacted by the overwhelm that characterizes a mental breakdown. Click To Tweet


Under the umbrella term of mental breakdown or nervous breakdown, we may detect common mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. A person may be coping with any combination of the common signs of a mental breakdown, including:

  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Fearful thoughts
  • Overwhelm
  • Isolating from others
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Memory or concentration problems

Considering the complexity of mental health conditions, as well as the unique responses of each individual, this list can certainly be lengthened. In addition, certain conditions, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and chronic pain, can mimic the symptoms that one might associate with a mental breakdown—or serve as underlying causes for a breakdown.


Here are just some of the ways mental breakdowns might manifest:

  • A traumatic event can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can include panic attacks, hallucinations, avoidance of places or activities, flashbacks, insomnia, fear, irritability, and isolation. When PTSD remains untreated, symptoms can accumulate and eventually lead to a breakdown.
  • Associated with symptoms of depression, a breakdown might look like a lack of motivation or interest in previously enjoyed activities. There may also be avoidance of daily habits or hygiene, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, fatigue, or thoughts of suicide.
  • Since stressors can create the conditions for a breakdown, many people will experience symptoms of anxiety. They may feel on edge, worried, or nervous. Physical side effects, such as muscle tension and bodily aches and pains, may be present. Or they may notice changes in sleep or appetite (sleeping or eating too much or too little).

When any of these symptoms are interfering with daily life, it’s time to seek medical help. And, if you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, call the Suicide & Crisis Hotline at 988, or dial 911 in an emergency.

Early intervention is crucial so the effects don’t pile up and worsen over time. We will explore treatment options, as well as natural, lifestyle-related prevention tactics, below.


Nervous breakdowns are a matter of both nature and nurture—triggered by everything from underlying mental health conditions to grief after a family member’s death. But certain populations may be more susceptible to being impacted by the overwhelm that characterizes a mental breakdown.

Those who have a family history of mental health conditions, for example, may find themselves with similar struggles. Under-served communities, such as LGBTQIA+ or minority populations, are also at greater risk.

Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges that, across the globe, people who are more exposed to adverse circumstances like poverty, violence, disability, and inequality are more likely to experience mental health conditions as a whole.

Psychological factors, like the development of emotional skills and systems in place to help (such as social support), can make a big difference.

And, as the brain-imaging work with SPECT scans at Amen Clinics shows, the WHO affirms that many of the factors—for both risk and protection—are influenced by changes in the structure and/or function of the brain.

However, in our fast-paced, hyper-connected world, anyone is vulnerable to being overloaded with stressors. High-pressure jobs, relationship problems, medical setbacks, and devastating losses can happen to all of us. And, when they pile up, anyone’s mental well-being can be tested.

That’s why it’s important to develop habits designed to boost stress resilience. Implementing just a few may assist in preventing adverse life events and other daily stressors from creating debilitating effects.

Here are some ideas to help generate more peace in everyday life, boost mental strength, and process your emotions so they don’t build up over time:

  • Incorporate meditation, deep-breathing techniques, and/or prayer in your daily routine.
  • Use journaling to think through your problems—and to count your blessings through a written gratitude practice.
  • Focus on what you can control and take responsibility for it.
  • Notice and question any automatic negative thoughts (ANTs).
  • Maintain a healthy diet and a physical activity routine.
  • Reach out to others for support; don’t isolate.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene and get enough rest each night.
  • Avoid substances that will aggravate mental health issues, including caffeine, alcohol, and drugs like marijuana.
  • Give back to others.


Treatments to effectively counter the symptoms of a nervous breakdown will vary according to each person. For example, symptoms associated with PTSD and depression may respond well to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Changing negative thought patterns, leading to improved resilience against life stressors, can be achieved with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). And neurofeedback, which helps with self-regulation, has been shown as beneficial for a wide variety of mental health symptoms.

Antidepressant medications are additional possibilities for treatment, but these should never be the only or the first line of defense in the battle for better mental health. It’s first crucial to pinpoint the root issues at work.

Functional brain SPECT scans detail blood flow and activity patterns in the brain, which is where mental health begins. These scans show which areas of the brain are working well, and which are overactive and/or underactive. Only then can an effective and customized treatment plan be enacted—because mental health help should never be a one-size-fits-all proposition.


Nervous breakdowns can seem all-consuming, interfering with daily life activities as a result of stress overload. But, unlike in decades past, today there is less stigma and more help available for the many symptoms and manifestations that may signal a mental breakdown. Seeking help from a mental health professional is the first step to healing.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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