What is nervous breakdown?

A nervous breakdown refers to an acute attack of anxiety that disrupts your daily life. Nervous breakdowns are part of a family of mental disorders known as anxiety disorders. Nervous breakdowns can happen when you are experiencing sudden, extreme, or prolonged stress. When a nervous breakdown happens, you may feel like you lose control of your feelings and give in to stress, anxiety, or worry.

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Symptoms of a nervous breakdown include feelings of worry, nervousness, fear, anxiety, or stress. They can also include sweating, crying, fast thinking, muscle tension, trembling, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, irritability, and insomnia. Unlike panic attacks, which can happen suddenly and without apparent reason, nervous breakdowns are usually related to some sort of stress.

The cause of a nervous breakdown is usually an excessive stress response by the body. They can also result from a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters, substances that control brain and nerve signaling. Nervous breakdowns can happen to anyone, but are more likely if you have a personal history of anxiety disorders or if you are experiencing a period of high stress in your life.

Treatment for nervous breakdowns may be as simple as modifying your lifestyle to include more sleep and relaxation. Therapy, such as talk therapy, may also be helpful when confronting stressful periods of your life or stressful memories. In some cases, medications may be required to help you cope with your anxiety. With the use of therapy and medications, nervous breakdowns can usually be avoided or managed.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as thoughts of self-harm or suicide, inability to care for your basic needs, or thoughts of harming others.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for an anxiety disorder and symptoms persist or worsen.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of nervous breakdown?

Symptoms of nervous breakdown include negative feelings, such as feelings of nervousness and stress. Nervous breakdowns usually correspond to a period of high stress in your life, or a time when you feel like you just can’t take any more.... Read more about nervous breakdownsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes nervous breakdown?

Nervous breakdowns are caused by your body’s stress response. In some cases, your body reacts inappropriately to stress, or you are faced with so much stress that your body cannot react appropriately. In these cases, you can feel excess anxiety that can lead to a nervous breakdown.... Read more about nervous breakdowncauses

TREATMENTS

How is nervous breakdown treated?

Nervous breakdowns may be treatable by lifestyle modifications such as practicing regular relaxation or learning breathing techniques to practice when you feel stress coming on. In some cases, however, especially when nervous breakdowns are related to an anxiety disorder, medication may be required to treat your nervous breakdown. Therapy, such as talk therapy, is also helpful for many people.... Read more about nervous breakdowntreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mental Health and Behavior