What Exactly Is A Mental Breakdown?
Have you ever been so stressed that you thought to yourself, “Am I having a mental breakdown?” Many people find themselves in this position at least once in their life, if not more. So how do you know if you are just stressed out or having a mental breakdown? Symptoms of a mental breakdown include having panic attacks, confusion, or even hallucinations.
What is an example of a mental breakdown? One example would be working 60 hours a week completing projects with no end in sight. This feeling can make you snap and completely change your outlook on life. You will stop taking care of yourself, avoid social events, and you may not be able to perform day to day simple tasks. Mental breakdowns are also called nervous breakdowns. These breakdowns are often closely tied to psychological burnout, severe overwork, sleep deprivation, and similar aspects in life that weigh heavy with stress. These events combine to temporarily overwhelm an individual with an otherwise healthy mental state.
When significant distress or real functional impairment occurs, that is when the term mental breakdown is used. J. Ryan Fuller, PhD, the clinical director of New York Behavioral Health describes a mental breakdown as, “an anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder, or mood disorder that’s triggered by a major life transition such as job related stress or a traumatic event.”
Symptoms of a mental breakdown are not the same for everyone. Everyone has a unique personality and set of coping skills. Sometimes people have a panic attack, strong feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or confusion. On the extreme side, some people see hallucinations or spirits, a licensed clinical psychologist, David S. Ullmann, PsyD, explains. “In some cases, a person in distress is no longer able to function at work or home, or take care of basic needs like eating or maintaining hygiene,” Ullmann explains. This type of behavior may lead to depression or thoughts of suicide.
While mental breakdowns can be brief, some can be dangerous. Some of these breakdowns can be treated with a cognitive behavioral therapist. Natural resilience usually kicks in and the person suffering can go back to living their life as they did before. If the breakdown is severe and creates a safety risk for the individual or those around them, attending a daily psychiatric program maybe necessary.
“Once a thorough psychiatric assessment is completed, a diagnosis will then be made,” explains Ullmann. Ullmann also explains that severe cases have led to the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and schizophrenia.
There are ways to combat these breakdowns. Fuller suggests, “If you’re going to change jobs, move, or go through a breakup, make sure you are sleeping regularly, exercising, and eating a nutritious diet to avoid stress on your mind and body.”
Whisper, a free app that allows users to share their secrets anonymously, gathered thoughts from people who have had a mental breakdown to try and put a face on this disorder. They describe what it is like: “It feels like the world is crashing down and you don’t know how to save it.” and “A room with no windows, light, or doors. You are stuck there with all of your thought just taunting you, there is no way out.”