Nervous Breakdown Symptoms and Warning Signs

Most people have heard of a nervous breakdown, but that does not necessarily mean that you understand what it means. It can be helpful to know the warning signs of a nervous breakdown so that you can curb the feelings and take the necessary steps to prevent worsened mental health. 

If you feel like you may be headed towards a nervous breakdown, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address negative thought patterns or stressors. 

What is a Nervous Breakdown?

A nervous breakdown can also be called a mental breakdown and is characterized by extreme mental stress. The level of mental or emotional stress becomes so extreme that it makes it difficult or impossible to function. 

The term nervous breakdown is not a clinical term, or a mental health disorder and it is not used by mental health professionals. However, it is still commonly used colloquially to describe an extreme response to high levels of stress. It may also have underlying causes like anxiety or depression. 

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

What Causes a Nervous Breakdown?

While there is no single cause of a nervous breakdown, there are some things that often cause high levels of stress that could contribute to a mental breakdown. Things like the loss of a loved one or other unexpected tragedy, a sudden or major change, constant stress or burnout, anxiety, depression, abuse, poor sleep habits, and prolonged financial stress can all contribute to a nervous breakdown. Additionally, changing family dynamics can increase stress and make one more likely to have a nervous breakdown. If you want to learn more about different family dynamics, parenting styles, or parallel parenting, visit BetterHelp.

What are the Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown?

Since a nervous breakdown is not a defined mental health condition or a recognized term, the symptoms are not exact. However, there are some symptoms that are commonly attributed to a nervous or mental breakdown. 

A nervous breakdown can cause sleep problems including insomnia. This can make the effects of stress on the body and mind even greater leading to more mental health issues. It can also lead to unhealthy eating habits like binge eating or decreased appetite. 

In some cases, a nervous breakdown could cause hallucinations, emotional outbursts, and panic attacks. These types of symptoms can be distressing and cause a person to be unable to function at work or at home. 

Sometimes a nervous breakdown can cause symptoms often associated with depression. This can lead to isolation, hopelessness, and loss of interest in things that you used to find enjoyable. Sometimes this also coincides with unhealthy coping methods like drinking or substance abuse. 

There are also some physical symptoms associated with high levels of stress that may develop as part of a mental breakdown. This can cause upset stomach, tension, high blood pressure, sweaty hands and feet, dizziness, and trouble breathing. 

Warning Signs of a Nervous Breakdown

‘There are some signs and symptoms that you may want to be on the lookout for so that you can know when your stress levels may be getting excessively high. It is common for symptoms of anxiety and depression to develop or worsen prior to a nervous breakdown. Things like irritability, constant worrying, loss of interest, difficult breathing, and low self-esteem may be warning signs to look for. 

Difficulty concentrating may also be a warning sign of impending nervous breakdown. High levels of stress can make it hard to concentrate and sometimes even leads to memory problems. Intrusive thoughts of worry can be distracting and make it hard to focus on the task at hand. 

Troubles with sleep may also develop or worsen when you are heading towards an emotional breakdown. Stress can cause insomnia. Some people cannot get to sleep when they have anxiety or high levels of stress, and it can also reduce the quality of sleep even after you fall into your dreams. High stress levels can also lead to oversleeping as a way to cope. 

Sometimes, when someone is headed towards burnout or nervous breakdown, they may experience fatigue. This fatigue could be mental, physical, or both. It could be a symptom of issues with sleep or the impact of heightened levels of cortisol on the body and mind. 

High stress levels can also change appetite, which can lead to overeating or undereating. This can lead to worsened responses to stress as well. Some people will eat comfort foods as a way to cope while others will not feel like eating at all. Stress can also cause digestive issues like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. 

What Can You Do to Avoid a Nervous Breakdown?

There are some things that you can do if you notice some of the warning signs of a mental breakdown in order to prevent the breakdown or at least make it more manageable. 

You may want to learn mindfulness meditation and other relaxation techniques. This can help you reduce stress levels and prevent excessive worry. This can also help you relax if you can’t address the cause of the stress. 

You may also find that it is helpful to participate in things that you enjoy. This could be a hobby or social activity. While mental distress can make it more difficult to go out and do enjoyable things, you may find that it is greatly beneficial to do so. 

Regular exercise can also help with mental health and reduce stress levels. You should try to exercise at least a few times a week to benefit from the physical activity. You should also try to eat healthy foods whenever you can. 

Taking a brief vacation can also do wonders for stress levels. Try to take breaks at work if you cannot take more time off. Also, attempt to set reasonable expectations of yourself and your productivity and avoid biting off more than you can chew. 

If you still cannot reduce your stress levels or find it difficult to function, then you may want to consider therapy. Therapy can be effective for reducing stress, teaching healthy coping techniques, and learning how to alter thought patterns to become more positive. 


Everybody encounters stress, but it is important to know how to deal with it. However, sometimes life throws unexpected situations at us so that our stress levels skyrocket and we find that it becomes hard to focus or function. This can be the beginning of nervous breakdown. It is important that we retain healthy habits and learn how to manage stress in a healthy way in order to prevent a breakdown or to reduce the impact that stress has on our mind and body. 

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