Triggers For A Nervous Breakdown

Nervous breakdowns and mental breakdowns are terms that describe periods of intense mental distress. Individuals having a nervous breakdown are not able to function in their day-to-day lives. In the past, the term nervous breakdown was used to describe multiple mental illnesses including acute stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. Although nervous breakdown is no longer considered a diagnostic or clinical term, many still use it to describe an inability to cope or intense stress symptoms. Mental breakdowns can also sometimes be a sign of a mental illness that hasn't yet been diagnosed. Nervous breakdowns don't have one set definition, but most individuals consider them a period in which emotional and physical stress become serious enough to impair someone's ability to function.

A variety of things can trigger this phenomenon. Learn about them now.



Burnout can lead to a nervous breakdown, especially if individuals experience the feeling for prolonged periods without relief. Burnout occurs when individuals become mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted because they're constantly stressed. An individual experiencing burnout tends to feel emotionally drained, overwhelmed, and unable to meet the challenges of life. Many experience burnout regarding careers or activities they previously enjoyed, especially if they don't have a healthy work-life balance. The more burned out individuals get, the less motivated and interested they feel in their day-to-day activities. They'll experience a reduction in energy and productivity, and may also become more and more resentful and cynical. Burnout has negative effects on all areas of an individual's life, including school, work, social activities, and home. If individuals are constantly exhausted, they might also be more vulnerable to infections and illnesses because their immune system isn't functioning as well as it should. If individuals feel they're exhausted every day, don't have any motivation, or it's a waste of energy to care about their life, they could be at risk of a nervous breakdown.

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Chronic Stress


Short periods of stress are a normal and even healthy part of everyday life. In moderation, stress can help keep individuals motivated, engaged, and interested in the world around them. But if individuals are experiencing constant stress without relief, they'll also experience serious health consequences that could include a nervous breakdown. Chronic stress is long-lasting stress that causes an individual to exist in a constant state of alertness. Those experiencing chronic stress might feel like they have no 'off switch'. Some of the most common causes of chronic stress are tumultuous home environments, problems in relationships, financial troubles, and highly demanding and pressurized jobs. Individuals experiencing chronic stress have greater amounts of pressure on their bodies, which can lead to a variety of physical symptoms. Symptom severity and presentation vary widely. Some common symptoms of chronic stress are trouble concentrating, rapid thoughts, headaches, fatigue, extreme irritability, insomnia, trouble with digestion, appetite changes, low self-esteem, anxiety, and feelings of helplessness.

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Grief refers to an individual's response to loss. Everyone grieves in different ways, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. But if individuals don't have a support system and healthy coping mechanisms when grieving, they might be at a heightened risk of a nervous breakdown. This is especially true if the person or thing they're grieving was an integral part of their life. Grief isn't always about death or about losing another person. Some individuals might go through a grieving process after losing a job, ending a relationship, moving out of an old home, or being diagnosed with a chronic illness or disability. It's also common for individuals to experience grief after realizing they won't be able to fulfill a dream, losing their feeling of safety following a traumatic event, retiring, losing a pet, or experiencing a miscarriage. Some might experience feelings of loss over situations others have no emotional problem with. It's important not to rush the grieving process or stifle it, as individuals will only be able to heal once they have processed what they're feeling.

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Traumatic Experience


A traumatic experience can lead to a nervous breakdown, especially if it causes heightened stress responses and a feeling of being unsafe. Traumatic experiences are often linked to grief, stress, anxiety, and burnout. Most individuals will experience at least one traumatic event in their life. While war and combat are two of the most commonly understood traumatic events, there are much more mundane-seeming experiences that can cause harm. Trauma is used to refer to an event that causes psychological, emotional, physical, or spiritual harm. When individuals experience trauma, they might feel frightened, anxious, or threatened. Some who experience trauma struggle to process their feelings and may repress their memories or experience deep denial about how badly the event affected them. If individuals do undergo a traumatic experience, it's important to have a support network and to get in touch with mental health resources to help cope. Some common traumas include the death of a family member, painful divorces, physical injuries, natural disasters, illnesses, combat and war, terrorism, moving to new locations, being abandoned by a parent, witnessing death, being abused, or being incarcerated.

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Taking On Too Many Responsibilities


One thing that can increase an individual's chances of a nervous breakdown is taking on too many responsibilities. Humans only have the capacity to do so much. Individuals might find themselves sacrificing sleep, food, and self-care as they try to juggle home chores, child-rearing, caring for sick family members, going to classes, working full time, offering extra help to others in their life, and keeping up with social demands. Even if individuals feel like they have the energy to take on all of these projects at once, they can start to drain them once the initial excitement and novelty wear off. Individuals need to make sure they're making space to take care of themselves and relax.


    Katherine MacAulay