10 Physiological and Psychological Signs of a Mental Breakdown

Sometimes called a nervous breakdown, a mental breakdown is a period of often intense mental distress that we experience as being beyond our control. For many people, a mental breakdown makes it impossible to function in everyday life. This abrupt condition can have consequences for the individual’s personal and professional life and on loved ones.

The signs of a mental breakdown could be very apparent in some people, or they may be more subtle and covert for others. These are notable physiological symptoms and psychological signs of a mental breakdown:

1. Stress

Being under pressure, coping with grief or disappointment or just dealing with day-to-day challenges and responsibilities can put enormous psychic strain on a person. Extreme life events like the death of someone we care about, the end of a relationship, divorce, or the loss of a job are major stressors. Some stress is common and it is okay to feel stressed in waves and flows, but watch out for excessive tension that you cannot cope with or escape.

2. Changes in appetite or sleep

Changes in appetite and sleep patterns may be signs of mental unrest. These changes include overindulging in junk food or experiencing a complete loss of appetite, or changes in sleep by way of insomnia (being unable to get to sleep), or sleeping too much or too little. Each of these signs of a mental breakdown is measured by their intensity and the degree to which they are out of the ordinary.

3. Mood swings

Have you noticed changes in mood? Are you moody one minute and then numb or excessively happy the next? Have you recently been going from one extreme to another? As with all of these signs, abrupt or extreme changes in behaviour, habit or mood is what creates cause for concern. Pay attention to the feeling that these changes are out of control or different from routine.

4. Panic attacks

Panic attacks are one of the accumulative signs of a mental breakdown. Extreme anxiety sometimes bursts forth in physiological symptoms like high blood pressure, sweaty palms, trembling or shaking, tense muscles, flashes of light, dizziness, and nausea. Panic attacks can also involve chest pain, difficulty breathing, the feeling that you are apart or detached from reality and your body, as well as intense fear and dread.

5. Excessive drinking or drug use

Independent from issues of alcoholism or drug addiction, which are serious medical concerns, changes in how much you use or abuse alcohol and drugs over a short period of time may signal a general mood disturbance. This can include excessive consumption of beer and wine as well as hard liquor, and prescription or over-the-counter medications like cough syrup or sleeping pills as well as illegal or hard drugs. Drinking and drug use can both exacerbate and/or contribute to a mental breakdown.

6. Change in libido

Are you sexually shut down or acting out? Our mental well-being contributes to healthy sex lives. Any changes to how you feel about this intimate part of life that you perceive as extreme or uncharacteristic may be signs of trouble.

7. Depression

We all experience some level of sadness or depression in our lives. Sometimes, depression can take the form of just a general lack of motivation. Feeling sad or being depressed can involve a loss of interest or satisfaction in things you generally enjoy doing. The signs may include a lack of energy, trouble concentrating, unpleasant or intrusive thoughts, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, focusing on death or even suicide.

8. Isolation

People experiencing a mental breakdown may isolate themselves from family, friends, and colleagues. They may also avoid social functions, call in sick to work or school, and personal hygiene may deteriorate. If you notice a colleague or employee growing increasingly isolated at work, it may be a sign of budding mental health issues in the workplace.

9. Flashbacks

Flashbacks to past traumas can signal or accelerate a mental breakdown. Even if we do not necessarily experience an event as traumatic at the time, trauma can leave a mark on us that returns even years later. You do not have to have been a soldier in combat or victim of violence to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

10. Hallucinations, delusions and paranoia

A mental breakdown can temporarily bring about a host of extreme symptoms shared with other mental health conditions. Hallucinations are like living in a dream world where you see things that aren’t there, or more commonly, auditory hallucinations involve hearing voices or sounds that you alone can hear. Paranoia can be experienced as fear or dread, or the belief that someone is watching you or intends to do you harm.

The appearance of the symptoms of a mental breakdown might be frightening to the person experiencing it or to the people around them. If you believe you are experiencing a mental breakdown, ask someone you trust about for professional help, and don’t be afraid to ask again, if you are unable to find a solution that works for you right away. The important thing to remember is that this is temporary condition; however, it can point to a deeper issue that deserves professional attention.

Ronald Ryan

I'm a self-proclaimed science geek and all-around nerd. Useless fun trivia seems to be my forte. If you ever need to hear a good dad joke, I'm your guy!

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