The signs and symptoms of a nervous, or mental, breakdown you shouldn't ignore

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 able to deal with all that's on your shoulders. You're exhausted. You can no longer deal with all that stress and 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 already working 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 right now
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.

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...

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):

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. Yet test results show you're just fine. BTW - if you haven't had it checked by a doctor you should do!
  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. However, that adds to your distress as you fear shaking hands and other people noticing how much you're sweating. You now know what a 'cold sweat' is!
  4. Dizziness or 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 as 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 or takes too much energy to deal with. Therefore diarrhoea, frequently needing to pass urine, feeling sick 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 and/or existing health issues draw all your attention. I wouldn't be surprised if, in your imagination, you're already at death's door (it wouldn't hurt to have a health check though - even if only to reassure yourself that all is well).
  9. Coughs and colds - you seem to be catching every bug that's floating around. The prolonged stress is lowering your immunity.
  10. Tension headaches - tight muscles, constant worry, mind and body out of balance - you're feeling poorly most of the time.
  11. Restlessness - you can't seem to sit still long enough to 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.

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.

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.
  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. You may even have been accused of being uptight or highly strung.
  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).
  6. Sleep problems - not being able to fall asleep, 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 - my clients describe it sometimes as living in a bubble. It feels you're 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 for anything at all from others, including your children or partner.
  9. Difficulty concentrating - you probably can't even read a page in a book, or keep your mind on the headlines in a newspaper.
  10. Depression - this is almost a given when your life seems to be unravelling (see my pages on depression - links further down).
  11. Excessive dreaming (what your dreams really mean).
  12. Your memory is like a sieve - that part of your brain that (partly) deals with memory is over-burdened. Also because you may have trouble concentrating you're just not absorbing everything that's being said or what you're reading or writing.

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 meltdown

  1. Crying easily, and 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 and worried! 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

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