We likely have all experienced nervousness or anxiety at some point. When these symptoms are of considerable intensity, We can say that we have suffered a nervous breakdown.
A nervous breakdown originates when the environmental situation exceeds the resources we have to deal with it. This article will know what this type of crisis consists of, its usual symptoms (and their types), its causes, and the treatments that can be applied.
Nervous Breakdown: What is It?
We use the term “nervous breakdown” to refer to an anxiety crisis in a nonmedical way and everyday language. The nervous breakdown can appear in healthy people (without any mental disorder) under highly stressful conditions and people with some mental disorder. In this second case, the nervous breakdown is often one of the symptoms underlying the disorder.
A nervous breakdown can last from minutes to hours (most common), days, and even weeks.
But what exactly is a nervous breakdown? In ordinary language, we use this concept to refer to high states of anxiety and nervousness. That appears when we are overwhelmed (or overwhelmed) by circumstances; In other words, our resources are insufficient to meet the demands of the environment.
These demands are often highly stressful and lead to a series of characteristic symptoms, which we will see later.
We can anticipate that a person suffering from a nervous breakdown manifests a series of anxious or nervous symptoms. All this means that their ability to respond reduces the demands of the environment drastically. Therefore, their functioning is altered and ends up being dysfunctional or maladaptive.
Demands of the environment in which the person is involved, including work, social, personal situations, etc., are perceived by the individual as too demanding and impossible to manage.
This perception can change from one person to another. That is why the causes or triggers of a nervous breakdown (environmental demands) will never be the same for one person or another. However, they will share a common element and their perception of beyond control or impossibility of managing.
Symptoms Of Nervous Breakdown
There are a series of characteristic symptoms of a nervous breakdown. However, it may mention that these can vary considerably from one person to another and depends on their personalized characteristics. These situations trigger the crisis, environmental demands, etc.
Thus, the most frequent symptoms of a nervous breakdown are of three types: psychological symptoms, physiological symptoms, and behavioral symptoms. Each symptom is related and often overlap one other, so we are going to see some of the symptoms that each of these categories groups together:
1. Psychological Symptoms
Psychological symptoms refer to the psyche of the person and their mental processes. These include the following:
1.1. Feeling Restless
The person with a nervous breakdown may have a constant or intermittent feeling of restlessness. You may feel nervous, tense, like “about to lose control.” This feeling is very psychological, but it can have repercussions on other symptoms, such as physiological.
1.2. Cognitive Disturbances
Alterations may also appear in the mental plane, such as difficulties in evoking memories (memory disturbances). Similarly, it appears attention and concentration difficulties, slowness in making decisions (or inability to take them), etc.
In general, and by way of comment, mental disorders often involve cognitive impairments like depression, generalized anxiety disorder, etc. We must not confuse a cognitive disorder (for example, dementia) with a pseudo-dementia or a depressive pseudo-dementia.
1.3. Irrational Fear
Another psychological symptom in a nervous breakdown is an irrational fear, which is often disproportionate or does not have a clear trigger.
2. Physiological Symptoms
Physiological symptoms correspond to the more corporal terrain and include physical alterations such as the following:
Fatigue implies a high feeling of tiredness, like heaviness, which makes it challenging to carry out daily life activities. This fatigue can be caused by ongoing stress, psychological factors, or both.
2.2. Loss Of Appetite
Weight loss is another physiological symptom of a nervous breakdown. This chronic stress causes the person to feel subjected to the constant nervous sensation he feels in the stomach.
2.3. Sleep Disturbances
Anxiety (and psychological factors in general) and sleep are closely related. Thus, a person suffering from anxiety (or a nervous breakdown) is very likely to have sleep disturbances, making it difficult for them to get a restful and satisfying sleep.
These alterations can translate into difficulties in falling asleep (insomnia of onset), difficulties in maintaining it throughout the night (maintenance insomnia), or the presence of an early awakening (terminal insomnia).
Migraines and headaches are also common in a nervous breakdown as part of the physical or physiological symptoms. These symptoms also appear in various anxiety disorders.
3. Behavioral Symptoms
The behavioral symptoms of a nervous breakdown cover the most behavioral terrain of the person. Some of these symptoms translate into:
3.1. Social Isolation
The person may end up isolating himself socially, avoiding being with friends or partners, ceasing to see his family, etc. The discomfort usually causes all and the other symptoms cause the other symptoms and the fear of having a nervous breakdown again in social situations.
3.2. Aggressive Behaviors
Sometimes uncontrolled or exaggerated anger can appear, which translates into aggressive or challenging behaviors, and which only aggravates the discomfort and tension that the person feels.
3.3. Excessive Crying
Finally, another characteristic behavioral symptom of a nervous breakdown is crying, which is usually excessive and inconsolable.
Causes Of Nervous Breakdown
The causes of a nervous breakdown can vary from person to person. Usually, these crises have a multifactorial origin. As we have seen, they appear as a consequence of a demanding environmental situation or environmental demands in the face of which the person cannot act.
Thus, the leading cause of a nervous breakdown is a highly stressful situation. For example are divorce, loss of a loved one, high volumes of work, work problems, financial problems, etc.
There has also been a genetic predisposition to suffer this type of crisis at the biological level, which added to the stressful situation and triggers a nervous breakdown. Heredity is also likely to play a role.
Finally, another possible cause is an underlying mental disorder, such as an anxiety disorder, a psychotic disorder, a depressive disorder, etc. It will be essential to discern the symptoms well to diagnose the nervous breakdown correctly. On the other hand, emotional, suggestive, and personality factors can also play a key role in its origin. For example, neurotic people are at a higher risk of developing one.
Treatment For Nervous Breakdown
The most appropriate treatment for a nervous breakdown is one that involves a multidisciplinary approach. Psychotropic drugs can offer certain benefits in the short term. Still, in the long term, the ideal will always be a comprehensive treatment that includes psychotherapy.
The psychological techniques used include cognitive restructuring techniques to treat dysfunctional thoughts, relaxation, and breathing techniques. That reduces anxiety and physical symptoms and psychoeducation that helps the patient understand the origin and maintenance of their nervous breakdown.