Mental Breakdown Symptoms

Forget those old Hollywood depictions of someone being trotted off to the “looney bin” tightly wrapped in a straight jacket and shot up with some heavy sedative to turn them into drooling vegetables within seconds.  Come on.  In real life—and one never knows when a total mental meltdown could befall any of us so it is best to treat the topic with humility and compassion—a mental breakdown can simply be the result of massive amounts of chronic, unrelenting stress.  Perpetually elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, combined with some negative or painful life events have the potential to completely hobble even the most rational among us.

Our mental health is much more fragile than we might realize, and until we are really tested we don’t know what our personal breaking point might be.  There are multiple factors that help determine each person’s capacity to withstand stress and strife, each with their own reservoir and coping skills.  When events begin to spiral and multiply, those reserves become depleted and any coping skills we might have can lose their power to manage the stress.  Sleep becomes disturbed or entirely eludes us during times of angst, only adding to the weakened mental state.  Appetites can wane, so nutrition is not maintained.  Substances such as alcohol or sedatives may become a crutch to help self-medicate the heightened levels of anxiety and/or depression.

At some point during a mental health crisis, the individual becomes unable to function at basic daily tasks, including their job or fulfilling family obligations.  Intervention is called for if this debilitated state persists for more that a day or two, so understanding what mental breakdown symptoms look like can help us recognize when to seek professional or emergency help.

Potential Causes of a Mental Breakdown

A mental breakdown happens when certain life events or experiences overwhelm the ability to manage the emotional stress, resulting in deep distress that impairs normal functioning.  Each individual has a certain tolerance to stress, influenced by temperament, genetics, general health status, emotional maturity, and other factors.  Some of the causes for a breakdown, that is when distress eclipses the ability to manage it, might include:

  • Extreme or protracted grief
  • High stress jobs without proper supports
  • A traumatic event
  • Ongoing physical or sexual abuse
  • Professions that are associated with emotional burnout
  • Severe social conflict that impacts the quality of home and work life
  • Family history of mental health disorders
  • Serious or chronic medical condition
  • Financial issues, such as bankruptcy or foreclosure
  • Poor coping skills

Whatever the cause, when symptoms of a nervous breakdown emerge it is critical to seek out professional help for the individual.

Recognizing Mental Breakdown Symptoms

The signs that a nervous breakdown is developing may evolve gradually, so the situation might surprise friends and family members and reach crisis status before help is sought.  If you or a loved one is under extreme stress, it is helpful to know what mental breakdown symptoms look like so proactive steps can be taken before an acute crisis event develops.

Signs and symptoms of an impending mental breakdown may include:

  • Isolating behaviors
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Lack of motivation
  • Ignoring hygiene
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Slowed movements or speech
  • Not showing up for work for days
  • Feeling emotionally drained
  • Physically exhausted for no reason
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations

Acute Stabilization

In the most severe cases, it may be necessary for an inpatient hospital stay in order to undergo acute stabilization.  Acute stabilization is needed when an individual becomes a danger to him or herself or others, and often results in a three-day psychiatric hold.  This allows the individual to be monitored during an acute mental health event, and provides a safe stress-free environment in which to stabilize.  In these events, depending on the severity of the breakdown, the individual may be isolated until they are stable, and then will be transferred to residential treatment.

Residential Treatment for Mental Breakdown Symptoms

A residential mental health treatment program provides a supporting environment that allows emotional healing while receiving treatment.  By retreating from the stressors into a therapeutic environment, the individual will be able to focus on and participate in the various therapies provided.  There are a wide variety of proven psychotherapies to help individuals learn to manage their thought and behavior patterns in a more productive and rational way.

One of the most effective therapies is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.  CBT is an effective short-term therapy that helps the individual in distress identify the thoughts that are leading to a sense of chaos or lack of control in their life.  Sometimes distorted thoughts can overblow the reality of a situation, resulting in overreacting or hyperarousal, as with a traumatic event.  CBT helps to reframe the thoughts into positive, actionable behavioral responses that help them gain back a sense of control over their life.

Stress reduction and coping skills are a significant focus in residential mental health treatment for mental breakdowns.  Learning how to diffuse the stress triggers by using deep breathing techniques, guided meditation, and mindfulness can help the individual better manage challenging situations.

Holistic therapies, such as practicing yoga, massage therapy, and art therapy can help boost recovery and are excellent outlets for stress.  Aroma therapy, acupuncture, and Tai Chi are also helpful in inducing relaxation to help heal the mind, body, and spirit.

The Treatment Specialist Locates Residential Mental Health Treatment

The Treatment Specialist is comprised of a team of experienced mental health and addiction specialists who can assist someone in need of inpatient mental health treatment by providing free locator services for high quality programs.  A free assessment tool helps the specialists identify the best type of residential program for your or your loved one’s unique treatment needs.  Find help today and call The Treatment Specialist at (866) 644-7911.

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1 reply
  1. Theresa Gilbert says:

    I feel lost, alone and I have approximately 90% of the above symptoms. I really can’t seem to cope with “life ” in general anymore…..


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