Nervous breakdown treatment: 3 steps to recovery

The best nervous breakdown treatments to speed up your recovery

Thank goodness you’re reaching out for help to recover from your nervous breakdown. Having a breakdown is such a frightening experience.

If you haven’t read my in depth article on Nervous breakdown symptoms, then do hop over to that one first.

You may also want to take my nervous breakdown quiz.

As I’ve explained on that page, ‘nervous breakdown’ is not a term mental health professionals normally use to describe this particular mental illness (as a therapist, I don’t think it’s just ‘mental’ at all!). However, I use it here because my clients use the term and we all know what it means.

I’m going to show you the best resources to help you recover from your mental breakdown and stay well.

Your recovery is of course most important for you, but also important for your loved ones.

Even if you feel your partner (or anyone else) is part of the cause of your breakdown, it won’t help your recovery if you wait for him or her to change. So, without further delay, here’s how to recover from nervous or mental breakdown…

How long does it take to recover from a mental breakdown?

How long your recovery is going to take depends on too many factors to be specific.

Usually the worst feelings subside within one to three months. Don’t hold me to that though – it can happen sooner or, unfortunately, later. 

Then there comes a fairly long period of gradual overall recovery with lots of ups, downs and periods of stagnation. After that, a very slow return to normal.

For further information see my article How long does it take to recover from a breakdown?.

I’m aiming to help you speed up your recovery from your breakdown. By being active in your recovery you’ll get there sooner rather than later! So, stay tuned…

First of all

First of all – having a one-to-one connection with a professional licensed therapist can be really effective.

He or she will take the time to really ‘get’ your personal situation and help you to recover. You’re likely to find it a huge relief to be able to talk everything through in confidence. You can contact your online counsellor every day if you need to for a very reasonable monthly fee (in comparison with finding someone local to you).

Also, whilst you’re going through a really tough time, keep the following in mind…

Photo: woman asleep at her desk. Text: Treating a nervous breakdown - 3 steps to your recovery.

Testimonial (received by email)

I have been slowly breaking down for 2 years. A month ago, I had a nervous breakdown. Yup, broken. Slowly doing better.

Your writing is so spot on. Thank you for putting my feelings in understandable language.

New research: stress isn’t necessarily harmful

Whilst your body is releasing lots of stress hormones, it also releases the neurohormone oxytocin to help you cope with stress.

Discover what that hormone does for you…

Nervous breakdown treatment –
your 3 steps to a faster recovery

To recover from a nervous breakdown you need to:

A) Treat the symptoms (the outward signs will then disappear too)
B) Deal with the contributing factors
C) Improve your lifestyle

Just think how long you’ve managed to keep going! Now give yourself time to build yourself up again with this 3-step nervous breakdown recovery plan, and with love and compassion for yourself.

Treating the immediate symptoms of your breakdown will help you feel a little more in control.

Remember – its vital to have a medical checkup first to rule out any other health problems. Sleep problems are particularly prevalent and you may just need some short-term medication to help you sleep. Your doctor can prescribe some for you if necessary.

Only once those whirring thoughts begin to calm down, can you start to solve problems and take effective action – when you feel you’re ready.

I’ve found some excellent resources to help you reduce the signs and symptoms, and deal with the underlying problems.

No one treatment is necessarily suitable for everyone – you choose what you think is most helpful in your situation.

Let’s deal with the symptoms of a nervous breakdown first…

Burnout symptoms, 8 ways that bring relief

A)  Treating the symptoms of your nervous breakdown

1. Natural remedies for fast relief

If you’re at all suspicious of what your doctor prescribes (I personally would be, because of the side-effects), then talk to him or her about alternatives.

It’s absolutely essential that you feel happy with whichever remedies and treatments you take to get over your nervous breakdown.

Should you really need some prescribed medication (to help you sleep for example), know that you won’t be needing it ‘forever’.

2. Stop those constantly whirring thoughts with meditation

Meditation helps you to stop worrying about the future or being stuck in the past. So it saves you that wasted energy.

Meditation is also a great way to get over depression. See my article: How to deal with depression without medication.

3. Hypnosis to recover from a nervous breakdown

I know from my practice and personal experience that (self)hypnosis is a great treatment to help calm a stressed-out mind/body.

Hop over to my article Hypnosis FAQ and downloads to discover if it could be part of your treatment too. You’ll also find a link there to my recommended downloads for treating a mental breakdown, managing stress and various other issues.

4. Track your recovery from a mental breakdown

Just writing about what’s troubling you, how you’re feeling and tracking your recovery can be a huge help. Keeping a journal can be a great way to do this.

Add journaling to your treatment plan by using Penzu – a free online tool.

5. Accept that it’s okay to be vulnerable

Watch Brené Brown talk about what happens when you try to numb your feelings.

If you’re short on energy or time, move the slider to 15.00 min and start watching there.

It may help you to join a support group, either online or close to where you live. Support groups should provide a safe place for you to be vulnerable, but I have to be honest, I’m generally not a fan of online support groups!

6. Take care of yourself

It’s very easy to ‘just not bother’ with looking after yourself.

That’s why I’m including a special worksheet for you. It will help you focus on nurturing yourself even during the most difficult time…

7. Don’t keep it to yourself

Let people you trust read my article: Signs and Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown.

Warn them that you may not be the best company right now and that you’re at risk of being irritable and even angry over nothing. Let them know that it has nothing to do with them, but that you may have no spare capacity to deal with anything that requires you to even think beyond simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Oh, and let your loved ones also read the following contribution from my niece…

A very personal experience …

My 26-year old niece had a major burn-out. This is what she wrote:

“One of the most stressful things I found was that I knew I needed lots of sleep and to eat well to get better. But, my body just didn’t respond to what I thought was good for it.

Being told to eat well and sleep enough made me feel panicky. Instead of being nourishing and healthy, the need to eat and sleep felt like yet another demand on my already overstretched body and mind.

Sometimes, I felt like I was on a runaway train, speeding further and further beyond control. I desperately wished for some kind of simple ‘off’ switch or at least some brakes.

Other times, I felt as though I was hanging by my fingertips from the edge of a cliff, staring at the ravine below me.

I desperately wanted to eat and sleep but whatever I tried, I just couldn’t. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling like a rabbit caught in the headlights. I felt panicky, my breathing was fast and shallow, and my pounding heart raced. All the while, I thought, “please let me sleep, and then maybe I’ll feel better in the morning.”

It was the same with eating. I knew I needed to eat healthily, even if just to give myself a little bit more energy. But, my body protested at every attempt. It almost took too much energy to lift a spoon, chew and swallow. Shopping was obviously out of the question and trying to prepare food felt stressful and impossible. And I just wasn’t hungry anyway.

If someone tried to encourage me to eat and they asked what I wanted, I just felt like screaming, “I don’t know! Stop with all these questions! I’m going crazy! I can’t think straight anymore. Just shut up and let me have some peace!”

I also cried at the drop of a hat which was exhausting in itself, and landed me in bed for hours, just to recover from that.

8. Accept whatever help you can get as part of your treatment

People who say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” often do mean that, but don’t know what to do.

Ask them to help with a specific task or chore.

At the same time, avoid people who sap your energy. Don’t try to be polite by agreeing to visit or attend a function when you know you can’t face it.

I’ve prepared a worksheet to help you see who in your social circle you can call on for what type of help…

Photo: Face of a distressed woman - 'cracked up'. Text: Need Help? Click here
Connect with a licensed therapist to get some reassurance, support and professional advice

B) Dealing with the causes of your meltdown

What happened prior to you becoming so poorly?

I suspect it was anything from personal, relationship and family problems to work-related stress or any type of trauma. Or perhaps it didn’t appear to be anything specific at all.

If you’re in the early stages of your breakdown, you’re unlikely to be ready to start dealing with the causes of it just yet. In that case, coping with not coping is probably the only realistic expectation for now.

When you’re ready:

  • take a look at my sitemap to find the articles that cover your particular problem
  • consider getting the help of a professional, licensed therapist. It’s very easy to set up an online session. For further information see my page on anxiety counselling.
  • read on for further tips and advice…

1. Dealing with general stresses and strains

I recommend two effective methods to help you recover faster:

  1. Self-hypnosis
    Self-hypnosis is such a user-friendly and effective way to help yourself recover much quicker. All you have to do is listen to a professionally prepared download. Simple! For further information, see my article: Self-Hypnosis Downloads and FAQ
  2. Meditation
    Google Jon Kabat-Zin, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine to learn all about how meditation can help.

2. Healing relationship or marital problems

Significant relationship problems can be a major factor in the development of a nervous breakdown.

For further information, start with my page on common relationship problems.

3. Overcoming existing anxiety and panic

Have you always been a bit of a worrier? Do you live with the constant presence of anxiety and perhaps even panic?

Do visit Dr Kelly Brogan’s website to learn how you can begin to tackle your anxiety without taking any medication.

See also my article: The Best Treatment for your Anxiety Symptoms.

4. Dealing with trauma

It’s easy to think of a terrorist attack, a house fire, getting injured in a road traffic collision as a traumatic event.

However, there are so many more ways in which you could have been traumatised.

I cover all this in more depth in my articles:

Calm scenery of a lakeside
That sense of peace will eventually return

C) Changing your lifestyle to prevent a recurrence

Oh, I know how difficult it can be to make the required changes!

First of all, I just want you to stop feeling guilty. I know it’s easier said than done, but guilt and shame are good only for you to realise when you truly have intended and done harm to others. In which case it’s a signpost – time to make amends and take a different route. Other than that – it’s wasted energy and you’re so desperately in need of that energy.

Secondly, you’ll want to make the most of the energy you still have! I just want you to make a start today in sorting your life out, for your benefit.

While your energy is still low, taking baby-steps is absolutely fine. I believe you can do it!

How to avoid a breakdown in the future

Mastering the next two steps can give yourself the best possible chance of preventing another nervous breakdown.

  1. When you’ve already got enough on your plate, stop adding more
    i.e. always thinking you can add the next thing and the next to your already full diary. Whether that’s because you want to be liked, just can’t resist an ‘exciting’ offer, or you’re being bullied into taking on more work than you could ever manage. There really is a limit to what you/your body can take. And that’s okay!
  2. Learn to say: “NO”.
     Start with saying that you need time to think about a request because you always want to be able to give 100% and you’re not sure you can at the moment. (Yup, I know that’s easier said than done!)

There’s more…

Nervous breakdown treatment
Increase your resilience by inoculating yourself against stress

No doubt you’re well aware that winding yourself up about all kinds of things isn’t doing you any good. It’s understandable and normal if it concerns things that have happened fairly recently. But… if it concerns stuff that happened way back, it’s time to take a fresh look at your map. and choose a different road! See also my article Tips to relieve stress.

Watch the video for some essential and reassuring information. Discover how you can very simply change how you use your brain to help you become more resilient.

Just make sure you get the general drift. Don’t worry about the difficult stuff…

Shouldn’t you see a doctor as soon as possible?

It makes sense to have a check-up from your doctor, mainly to exclude the possibility that you have an underlying medical/physical condition.

The symptoms of a nervous breakdown can be very frightening indeed, but it’s very likely you’ll recover without needing medical intervention (though psychological help may be needed).

You know now that we, as professionals, understand the nervous breakdown symptoms, including panic attacks.

You now also know that you are not ‘off your rocker’ or ‘crazy’, and that you’re not alone!

I promise you – you can recover.

Please note, if you’re also suffering from substance abuse, your treatment plan and road to recovery will need to include overcoming that addiction.

A note of warning

The US Food and Drug Administration has warned that certain behaviours are known to be associated with SSRIs (a class of antidepressants) including the following symptoms: anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, severe restlessness.

Any one of these symptoms is likely to make your emotional breakdown feel even worse.  So, be sure that you are well-informed before taking this kind of medication.

Instead of taking antidepressant (SSRIs), explore my pages on depression. All that advice on how to overcome depression also applies to getting over a nervous breakdown.

I would just like to say this is a brilliant page /site to understand whatsoever going on.”



… you have (suddenly) become completely hyper
– manic – you need immediate help.  You sleep very little, you’re over-happy, speak fast, maybe shop more, maybe spend more, lack any judgement, your thoughts are racing – you generally feel on a complete ‘high’.  You may also feel extremely anxious.  This may all happen after you have felt depressed for a while.

… you have a history of severe mental health problems
and you feel yourself slipping towards a mental breakdown – do reach out to a professional you feel you can trust.

… you’re addicted to illegal or prescribed drugs
And it’s best to mention this straight away. I understand if you feel embarrassed about that, but your health and your future happiness are at stake. You’re too precious, your particular skills are too valuable to lose – we need you to be involved in this world in a meaningful way

… you are feeling suicidal.

If you’re concerned for someone else, then you really need to make sure they get professional help as soon as possible. Take immediate action if you know that person has already planned how and/or when he/she is going to commit suicide.

Why you’re not going ‘crazy’

As a counsellor, I often saw people who were particularly worried about their brain or mind letting them down.

In case you are too, here’s a very short video clip that explains how we know that you’re not alone in being terribly forgetful, ineffective, disorganised and unable to focus.

Your nervous breakdown symptoms are in fact temporary. Your body/mind’s reaction is entirely normal under these – for you – abnormal circumstances.

From now on, I want you to take really good care of yourself!


You’re now going to have to choose to either… 

  1. focus your attention on the overwhelming tiredness, tension, panicky feelings, etc, OR…
  2. focus your attention on your recovery, and look out for the small shafts of light that will lead you out of that dark tunnel.

Know that however unlikely it may seem now, trust that with a good recovery:

  • you’ll be better able to balance work, family and time for yourself
  • you’ll be more grateful for the small pleasures in life
  • you’ll be able to enjoy the simple things in life
  • you’ll be generally more relaxed
  • you’ll get less worked up about things you can’t change anyway
  • you’ll choose more carefully who you spend your time with
  • you’ll know and understand yourself better
  • you’ll be kinder to yourself
  • you’ll be much clearer about – and able to set – your boundaries.

You can reclaim your life, be in control and happy again!

It will take time, though, and you may have to make some lasting changes. But have faith in your own strength – you were born with all the innate resources you need to recover and enjoy living again!

My very best wishes for a speedy recovery from that breakdown.


For even more tips and advice – and dealing with other potential causes of your burnout…

 … also read my article: Anxiety for no reason.

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Your problem is never too small or too big, too silly, too embarrassing or too complicated to get personal advice (anonymous if you want) from a professional counsellor. They’ll be happy to help. Get the reassurance, support and advice you need now.

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