The signs and symptoms of a nervous, or mental, breakdown...

... and more, including what to do about it and when you need urgent medical attention!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

The signs and symptoms of your nervous breakdown are an indication that you've reached your limit. You may feel you're falling apart, but I promise you -  you're not going mad and you're not insane!

You're just at breaking point - completely stressed out and at the end of your tether.

We all have our limits and there's a limit to how much you can cope with too. Maybe life has just thrown too much at you. Your resources - internal and/or external - are no longer enough to deal with all that's on your shoulders. You're exhausted. It's no wonder you feel like you're falling apart.

I hope to help you make sense of what's happening to you, or someone you care about - your partner, perhaps. I'm including this article in my relationship advice site because all too often relationship problems are part and parcel of a breakdown.

I'm aiming above all to reassure you...

You're not really 'broken'. Your body/mind is primed to heal itself. You've found this page, haven't you? Most of you is still working perfectly fine - you're keeping it together enough to know you need more information.

So, read on to learn more and increase your understanding of what's happening to you...

What you'll know by the end of this 3-part article

a) How all  that stress led to you feeling unable to cope
b) What a 'nervous breakdown' exactly is
c) How to connect with an online expert counsellor (for free)
d) What to do to get over it
e) When to see a doctor immediately (see Part 3)

What you need to know right away is that there's no shame in feeling  like a cry-baby, or like you're weak and completely out of control. You may feel like you're going crazy right now, but you will recover. The symptoms of this burnout will disappear. But - it won't happen overnight.

Image quote: A nervous breakdown is so much worse than being uncomfortable! However, you have no choice but the make changes, and yes - it absolutely offers the hope and potential for growth. Even though it may take you some time to realise that.

Always been anxious?

Chris Bayliss is a health researcher and nutrition expert specialising in the treatment of anxiety. He cured himself from anxiety!

Discover how his method can help you too...

Do you recognise these symptoms of a nervous breakdown?

Drawing representing woman's face with whirring thoughts

Maybe you've heard about someone "having a nervous breakdown" and you've asked yourself: what is it?  So, let me explain...

First of all - the terms I've used so far to describe what you're going through wouldn't normally be used in a professional setting.

I've used them here because I know that thousands of people a month are searching for them. I want to be sure that I reach everyone who's looking for reliable information - hence the more colloquial language.

You may suspect that you are - or someone you love is - suffering from shattered nerves (another description) and you don't know what to think or do.

This kind of disorder (don't let that word worry you either) may have slowly built up over time. Or you might have suddenly been caught out unexpectedly (though it would have been lurking for some time and I suspect you know that!).

See how many of these symptoms you recognise in yourself (or your loved-one):

Watch the slides or scroll down to read...

12 Common physical nervous breakdown symptoms

  1. IRREGULAR HEARTBEAT
    You can feel your heart pounding. Or maybe you're aware that your heart is beating really fast. You may be terrified that you're having or have had a heart attack.
  2. TENSED / PAINFUL MUSCLES
    No wonder... they're working overtime without you being consciously aware of it. They're at the ready to help you run away from the (imagined) disaster, constantly in fight/flight mode.
  3. CLAMMY HANDS AND ARMPITS
    Your body works hard to cool you down. You're worried about having to shake hands and other people noticing how much you're sweating.
  4. DIZZINESS AND LIGHTHEADEDNESS
    Your blood is drawn to the major muscle groups to ensure they're well-fed and can deal with the (imagined) catastrophe.
  5. TREMBLING...
    ...or shaking You may feel these are the most embarrassing symptoms - you're convinced other people will notice
  6. UPSET STOMACH AND BOWEL PROBLEMS
    Your body/mind reacts as if your life's in danger. Digestion is secondary to survival - your body wants to get rid of whatever it doesn't immediately need. Diarrhoea, frequently needing to urinate and nausea or vomiting are normal under the circumstances.
  7. EXHAUSTION
    All your energy is being used trying to manage or even just cope with this crisis - physically and mentally.
  8. PAINS
    Unexplained aches, pains, cramps and illness - your body/mind is out of balance. Existing health issues appear magnified. You may be convinced you're at death's door!
  9. COUGHS AND COLDS
    You seem to be catching every bug that's floating around. The prolonged stress is lowering your immunity.Flickr: Neil Williamson
  10. TENSION HEADACHES...
    ... tight muscles, constant worry, stress and anxiety. Mind and body out of balance - you're feeling poorly most of the time. Flickr: Diego Fornero
  11. RESTLESSNESS
    You can't seem to sit still long enough to even draw a few long breaths. You're in a constant state of agitation
  12. SENSITIVE HEARING
    Normal sounds may feel too harsh, loud or shrill

It's important that you have a medical checkup!

Overactive thyroid?

If in addition to the symptoms mentioned on this page you're also experiencing unexplained or unexpected weight-loss, you're needing to go to the toilet all too frequently and you're sensitive to heat, do yourself a favour - get yourself checked out by a doctor.

Watch the Slides or read on...

12 Mental symptoms that make you think you're going mad

  1. ANXIETY ABOUT EVERY-DAY THINGS,
    from the sound of the doorbell to going shopping or having to go to work - it's all too much.
  2. PANIC AND PHOBIAS
    Periods of an out of control fear which, once passed, you may feel is totally 'irrational'
  3. INABILITY TO COPE
    with stuff you wouldn't have thought twice about before - you can't think straight, have difficulties organising yourself and are frightened others will catch on
  4. LOSS OF LIBIDO
    you feel 'dead below the waist'! This is often a much-ignored early sign as it's so often blamed on other things
  5. IMPOTENCE...
    ...and a sense of shame about that to boot (see no 4) Flickr: Brett Jordan
  6. SLEEP PROBLEMS
    From not being able to fall asleep to frequently waking up and not being able to go back to sleep due to racing thoughts, general restlessness, irregular heartbeat and constant worry
  7. WITHDRAWAL FROM LOVED ONES
    It's as if you're living in a bubble - incapable of even following a conversation
  8. IRRITABILITY AND ANGRY OUTBURSTS
    You have no spare capacity and can't meet your own essential needs, let alone even the most minor requests from others, including your children or partner
  9. INABILITY TO CONCENTRATE
    You seem unable even to read and comprehend the headlines.
  10. DEPRESSION
    This is almost a given when your life seems to be unravelling
  11. EXCESSIVE DREAMING See also: What your dreams mean
  12. MEMORY LIKE A SIEVE
    The part of your brain that (partly) deals with memory is over-burdened

Other signs of a nervous breakdown you may recognise

  • It's difficult to divert your thoughts away from what's happening - regardless of where you are and what you're doing
  • You're constantly aware that 'you're just not feeling right' 
  • Even the most menial and normal demands on your time and energy now just feel too much to cope with
  • Ordinary family occasions can send you into complete overwhelm
  • You either want to run and hide, or you find yourself talking endlessly to people you trust about everything that's bothering you
  • You've little capacity to pay attention to anything, or listen to what other people are saying
  • You can’t handle hearing anything about other people's troubles
  • You're too tired to answer the phone, respond to messages, or even say or send a "thank you" - because explaining what's going on takes too much energy
  • You feel 'wrung out' and miserable much of the time
  • You don't know what to do for the best… being at home makes you depressed, and being at work makes you stressed
  • You feel completely unable to respond to other people's expectations

No wonder you're finding it hard to cope!

In Part 2 and 3 of this article is stuff you must also know including when it becomes essential to have a medical check-up.

If you're keen to find out right now how to get over a nervous breakdown, consider talking to a qualified counsellor now - for free (really!).

What about your emotional state?

8 Emotional problems common in a mental breakdown

  1. Excessive crying - you can cry seemingly endlessly, at the drop of a hat - whether you're male or female! No need to be embarrassed.
  2. Feeling guilty for all kinds of reasons: 'not pulling your weight', not being there for someone else, not being your 'normal' self, letting the side down, forgetting something important, etc.
  3. Feeling alone- you're embarrassed and don't want to bother anyone. You're scared that no one would understand.
  4. Feeling joyless and increasingly withdrawing from all the things you'd normally enjoy - because you can't cope, can't remember, can't think straight, worry that other would notice you're 'not right'.
  5. Being/feeling paranoid - feeling that people are out to get you and single you out for everything that's 'wrong' with you.
  6. Feeling manic or laughing uncontrollably, feeling on top of the world and able to do or achieve anything you like (less common - needing urgent medical attention!).
  7. Feeling suicidal(needs urgent medical attention).
  8. Feeling angry all the time - it would be so easy for you to just 'snap'.

When life sucks you under, you can kick against the bottom, find the surface and breathe again”


Sheryl Sandber, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook

It's not surprising that often a nervous or mental breakdown goes hand-in-hand with depression. 

Therefore I'm going to be straight with you: you're not going to get better by staying in bed, feeling miserable, crying excessively and worrying yourself sick! I know what can help though, but let's talk first in Part 2 about what people might notice.

Oh, and if you have suffered a trauma from which you're having difficulty recovering, have a look at my page on PTSD symptoms. PTSD can have a huge impact on relationships!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Related Articles

10 Tips to Relieve Stress
Is your Partner, Husband or Wife Cheating?
How to (Re)Build Your Self-Esteem
How to Improve Female Libido
Improving Male Libido
PTSD Symptoms
Dealing with anxiety
Depression in Men

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Elly Prior

Hello you! :-)

It's me - Elly Prior, I'm the Founder and Author of this site. I'm a 'real' person! I'm hoping to make a positive difference, small or large, to every person who visits my site.

I suspect you may be looking for help. There are counsellors waiting to help you right now. So, do connect with an expert counsellor now and be as thorough as you like about what's troubling you.

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