Common symptoms of a mental breakdown

What is a mental breakdown?

You’re likely to be searching for the symptoms of a mental breakdown because you’re feeling completely overwhelmed at the moment. Maybe you’re suffering from all kinds of symptoms you just can’t place and you’re worried you’re ‘going round the bend’.

Chances are you haven’t been feeling right for some time, but you’ve kept going – for whatever reason. And now, you’ve hit the wall or feel you’re about to.

I understand how scary that can be! As a professional therapist, I’ve seen so many clients that just couldn’t function anymore, they had completely reached the end of their tether. They may never ever have considered getting counselling before if it wasn’t for their mental breakdown.

So, what you need right now is good information and a medical checkup. With the information in this article, you’re ready to have a good conversation with your healthcare provider about what sort of help you need right now.

What you’ll know by the end of this article about mental breakdown symptoms
  • 12 possible physical symptoms of a mental breakdown
  • 13 mental symptoms
  • 5 emotional signs of a breakdown
  • The difference between a mental breakdown and a temporary emotional breakdown
  • That you will recover!

First of all, though, let me reassure you right away – yes, you may well suffer from a mental breakdown, but you will get better!

Banner: Signs and symptoms of a mental breakdown - physical, mental, and behavioural.

Do you recognise these nervous breakdown symptoms or signs of mental breakdown?

First of all – the term mental breakdown (sometimes called nervous breakdown) wouldn’t normally be used in a professional setting. Instead, medical and mental health professionals use terms such as ‘mental illness’, anxiety disorder, stress disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Read on now to discover what a mental breakdown entails and what your symptoms are likely to be…

Mental breakdown symptoms

12 physical symptoms of a mental breakdown

Your body is likely to be awash with a number of stress hormones – adrenaline being one of them, they may cause you to suffer from these physical symptoms:

  1. Trembling or shaking
    You feel exposed because it’s the one thing, you think, people can see.
  2. Clammy hands and armpits, clammy everything really
    No wonder you may be feeling embarrassed when shaking hands, needing to have photos taken or be in the public eye in any way.
  3. Sensitive hearing
    You can’t stand the music or TV too loud, the children yelling or your colleagues’ chatter.
  4. Upset digestive system
    Your stomach and bowels too are preparing for take-off as if you’re in danger.
  5. Dizziness and lightheadedness
    Whilst you’re in flight, fight or freeze mode your body is automatically supplying the major muscles groups with more blood because they’ve got to get you to safety – or so it’s perceived.
  6. Tight muscles
    Your muscles are prepared to help you run away from the scene or fight like a lion.
  7. Unexplained aches, pains, cramps and illness
    Your body/mind is feeling the strain.
  8. Coughs and colds
    Your immune system is having a hard time and leaves you more vulnerable to bugs.
  9. Tension headaches
    Tight muscles and changed blood supply are the cause of your sore head.
  10. Irregular heartbeat
    You’ve become aware of your heart rate like never before with the worry that you’re about to have a heart attack.
  11. Unrelenting restlessness
    You may have already tried various relaxation techniques without success. You long for a quiet mind, for those whirring thoughts to stop and to sleep, but you seem to be completely unable to settle and get some peace of mind.
  12. Exhaustion
    Your body/mind is convinced your living in danger – all your energy is being used to ensure that you can get yourself to safety, even though you may, in reality, be in the safest place on earth.

Now you know a little more about what happens when you have a mental breakdown.

You can now perhaps also see that it’s important that you have a medical checkup. Or, at the very least talk to a professional counsellor about your thoughts and feelings and mental breakdown symptoms.

Further signs and symptoms of a mental breakdown

13 other mental breakdown symptoms

  1. You’ve developed anxiety about things that would never have bothered you before
  2. You feel panic at the thought of going to work, shopping, picking the children up from school, travel or anything else
  3. You feel unable to cope with even the simplest of tasks
  4. You’re rejecting your partner’s physical advances – you feel numb and just not up to a physical relationship
  5. If you’re a man, you may well find yourself impotent on top – perhaps to your shame
  6. You’re likely to suffer from insomnia – finding it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep – unable to rest
  7. Your sleep may also be disturbed by the wildest of dreams (Discover how dreaming is linked to mental health)
  8. You wake up feeling depressed and worried about the day ahead – that black cloud hanging constantly hanging above your head
  9. You’re shutting yourself off from your partner, your children, your friends and your family
  10. You’ve developed a temper or your temper has worsened – you’re irritated by just about anything and everything
  11. You may think that people ‘have it in’ for you
  12. You can’t concentrate on anything – you may get the headlines, but you can’t get to grips with the details though your inability to concentrate
  13. You keep forgetting things you would have normally had no trouble with
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Connect with a licensed therapist to get some reassurance, support and professional advice

Remember, you’ll recover! Given time, you’ll function normally again, but it will be some months.

Could your symptoms be due to an overactive thyroid?

Also experiencing:

  • unexplained or unexpected weight-loss
  • needing to go to the toilet more often
  • sensitivity to heat

I’d like you to get a medical checkup. Your symptoms may not be due to a breakdown as such.

Photo: plant growing between stones.  Text: 'The most uncomfortable situations in life hold the greatest potential for growth.' Panache Desai

What about your emotional state?

5 Emotional signs of a mental breakdown

  1. You can at the drop of a hat even if you’d previously had considered yourself the most ‘together’ person
  2. Things you used to enjoy doing bring no pleasure at all now
  3. You can feel guilty for being a ‘burden’, for ‘letting the side down’, ‘not pulling your weight’ and not attending to the needs of your loved ones like you’d normally do
  4. You think that no one will understand what you’re going through and you may well be worried that you’re going mad and that the symptoms are irreversible
  5. You’re feeling ‘no good’ to anyone and are contemplating ending your life
Feeling manic?

If you’re beginning to feel invincible, on top of the world and able to do or achieve anything you like, you need urgent medical advice! Please, take note if others are commenting on your behaviour.

Know that you will recover – however long it may take, you will come out of that tunnel!

Photo: Distressed looking woman. Text: Do you suffer from an occasional emotional breakdown?

Could you be having a temporary emotional breakdown?

You could be suffering from an emotional breakdown – ‘just’ a temporary feeling sad, overwhelmed or anxious overload.

what are the signs of a purely emotional breakdown?

If you’re having an emotional breakdown you’re likely to cry bucket loads, feel shaky, sick and completely exhausted immediately after it.

You’re reacting to some really bad news – someone has had an accident, you’ve lost something or someone very important to you.

You can also have a bit of a breakdown following a huge achievement – perhaps you’ve got something you’ve wanted for a long time. In that case, an emotional breakdown is in response to tension, worries and stress finally being released.

A mental and emotional breakdown could also run alongside each other.


I suspect you’ve landed here because you’re scared you’re suffering a major mental health crisis in the form of a mental breakdown. Therefore, I hope the list of symptoms in this article is reassuring in the way that you now know that you’re not alone. This is a recognised condition that goes by various names that so many people in the western world now suffer from.

I know you will recover, these mental breakdown symptoms will disappear over time. You may not feel your ‘old self’ again for some time, but that may be a good thing!

I wish you well on your journey, take good care of yourself, know that I’m rooting for you!

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