What Are the Symptoms of a Breakdown?


The feeling of being overwhelmed or having reached a physical and emotional limit for dealing with life's stresses and pressures is labelled a nervous breakdown. What distinguishes a breakdown from the stress most people feel from time to time, is that these feelings prevent someone from functioning normally. Breakdowns happen to many people for a variety of different reasons and the symptoms may vary from person to person.

How Breakdowns Are Caused

  • While the reasons are different for each person, according to psychiatrist Dr. Cosmo Hallstorm, there are three common inter-linking factors which cause people to have breakdowns. He points toward an interaction between a person's emotional strength, genetic predisposition and an external event which acts as a trigger for the breakdown. Catalysts include major life events such as divorce, being fired, becoming a parent, death of a loved one, but breakdowns may also result from the culmination of several smaller pressures experienced in daily life.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Most commonly, people experiencing a breakdown have feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and depression. Breakdowns result from and exacerbate feelings of incompetence and an inability to cope. People going through a breakdown may be overcome with sensations of fear, panic, irritability and anger. Many tend to withdraw from loved ones and have a loss of pleasure for things that they would normally enjoy, including a loss of libido.

Behavioral Symptoms

  • A person's behavior can provide an indication of how well a person is coping with stress. People who avoid social engagements, miss appointments, call in sick for work for days at a time or just do not seem to be their usual self, may be experiencing a breakdown. Other behavior signs include difficulty concentrating, talking less, as well as crying easily and unexpectedly.

Physical Symptoms

  • A nervous breakdown could manifest itself through a range of physical symptoms including loss of appetite, exhaustion and insomnia. An upset stomach, light-headedness, heart irregularity, trembling, sweating and muscle pain are also symptoms. Some people become physically ill with a cold for example, and are very slow or unable to recover, while for others breakdowns trigger pre-existing health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, migraine and eczema. A nervous breakdown may also be indicative of a more serious underlying mental health issue, such as bipolar disorder.


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