How long it takes to recover from a nervous breakdown

When you can expect to have recovered from a nervous or mental breakdown

You want to have recovered from your nervous breakdown yesterday, I totally understand!

But how long your recovery will take depends on many different factors. Below I’ve included some of the key issues that will have an impact on your recovery:

  1. How long the nervous breakdown has been lurking around the corner.
  2. How much time you can give yourself to rest.
  3. What you do and don’t do to aid your recovery.
  4. What underlying issues may have led to your breakdown.

So, let’s start with the latter first.

Here are the most common contributing factors that influence how long it will take for you to recover.

How long it takes to recover from a mental breakdown depends on many factors. Some of those factors you’ll have control over, some you won’t. Discover how you can speed up your recovery.

Photo: woman looking out over sea. Text: Discover how long it may take to recover from your nervous breakdown
I know you would have wanted to be better YESTERDAY!

10 factors that influence how long it takes to recover from a nervous breakdown

The following factors may have caused or contributed to your meltdown.

In any case, with regards to your question:  “how long does it take to get over a nervous breakdown”, each of these factors influence when and how you’ll recover.

1. A sudden relationship crisis
– such as the disclosure of your partner’s infidelity (see my complete guide to surviving infidelity).

A relationship crisis is very unlikely to disappear from one day until the next. It takes time to deal with that and can create a huge sense of insecurity and uncertainty. Both will sap much of your energy.

Only when you’re in a safer place will be in the right environment and mood to attend to your own pressing needs.

2. Separation and divorce
(see how to get through a breakup and how to get through divorce). A separation also takes a lot of energy, whether or not you are the instigator. There’ll be many practical (and possibly legal) issues you need to attend to. Your partner may or may not be cooperative. It’ll depend on their sense of urgency how quickly you can put all of it behind you.

Your sense of security, so needed for your recovery, will also depend on your financial situation and your living arrangements following the breakup. .

3. A traumatic event
When were traumatised as human beings our body/mind is capable of healing much of what has happened, but it takes time – see: PTSD symptoms. And sometimes, it needs the help of a professional if the symptoms don’t subside and disappear of their own accord.

Recovery, with or without help takes lots of energy. Even when the event wasn’t physical, you’re likely to feel very tired. That sense of exhaustion can be caused by a lack of sleep, excessive dreaming and your body using much extra energy to heal.

If, however, you’re breakdown is entirely due to the trauma, you may well be better sooner than you think. That is if you indeed continue to feel better day by day.

If your breakdown is caused by overwhelming stress from another source, its likely to affect the time you’ll need to recover. 

4. A series of traumas
Life has a way of dealing with some nasty left-hookers one after another. You’ve barely recovered from one (if you’re so lucky) and you find yourself reeling from the next. Or, you’ve never really recovered from a previous trauma no matter now long ago.

That can make your mental well-being a little on the brittle side, making it even more challenging to overcome your nervous breakdown.

5. Multiple losses
– such as the deaths of people close to you, loss of a business or other significant losses such as experienced during a traumatic event.

You can, perhaps, begin to see a pattern of impactful and challenging life events that require much time, attention and a ton of energy. All potentially make your recovery that much more complicated. Please note though – none of them will prevent you from getting better!

6. A drip-drip effect finally taking its toll
– not unusual in emergency service personnel, or those who care for someone with a long-term illness. Police and ambulance personnel are continually exposed to traumatic events. Most they’re able to take in their stride until finally, they can’t take it any longer. It doesn’t then even need to take something really dramatic that sends them over the edge. It can be a relatively minor incident that they no longer have the spare capacity for to process.

7. Work-related stress
Maybe stress at work was the cause of your breakdown in the first place. If you do not get appropriate support at and from work, it can delay your recovery. It may even require you to find another job. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though I can imagine the very thought of it makes you shudder, as looking for another job also brings a lack of security.

8. Not eating and sleeping enough!
Click here to read what Doris Lessing discovered when trying it out for herself. You may not be able to relax at the moment, let alone sleep for long- or restfully enough.

However, if over time you’ve willfully neglected yourself – gaming, partying or working all night long, that’s where you’ll need to look for ideas on how to shorten your recovery time.

9. Domestic violence
If you’re living in an unsafe environment and you’re suffering from a nervous breakdown, regardless of it cause, you need help as soon as possible. Please, hop over to my article on the signs of an abusive relationship.

10. A combination of any of these
That needs no further explanation now!

This list is by no means complete, there may well be other factors that have contributed to your breakdown, for example a natural disaster, a war, a shooting or another personal crisis.

So, when you want to know how to recover from a mental breakdown, you can now see that the best answer is: “It depends”. All of the above takes time to heal.

Photo: stairways going off to different directions. Text: How long it takes to get over a nervous breakdown in 3 stages.

How long it takes to get over a nervous breakdown

I’ll break it down into stages for ease, but keep in mind that this is just to give you a general overview. There are so many variables that it’s impossible to make a blanket statement about exactly how long recovery from a nervous breakdown will take.

Stage 1

Your breakdown was probably caused by a crisis of some kind. At some point you succumbed to the pressure – you body/mind could no longer fight. Maybe you had an emotional breakdown, you simply couldn’t get out of bed or off the sofa, or you didn’t make it into work because of a panic attack.

So how long does it last?

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

Stage 2

Then there comes a fairly long period of gradual overall recovery with lots of ups, downs and periods of stagnation. You’ll find that you slowly begin to be able to do things that you haven’t been able to look at for weeks or maybe months.

This is when there’s a lot you can do to speed up your recovery.

Stage 3

After that, you’ll find you’re slowly returning to some sense of normality.

Don’t be surprised if, for some time, you remain somewhat vigilant for further symptoms of a nervous breakdown. Know that after you had such a difficult time it’s normal and necessary to be on your guard.

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

What might delay your recovery

There’s much that could potentially delay your recovery, such as:

  • Being hard on yourself
  • Not taking it easy
  • Fighting against the reality of your condition
  • Lack of understanding and support at home
  • Lack of support and consideration at work
  • Lack of social support in general
  • Poor general health
  • Additional worries about job security and financial stability
  • Medication – taking antidepressants and long-term use of anti-anxiety drugs, on account of their side effects and withdrawal symptoms

However, your focus needs to be on what you do have control over, and not on the things you can’t influence in any way. You’re short of energy as it is, so use what you have to aid your recovery.

Photo: Woman with paint all over her face. Text: Having a breakdown? Discover how to speed up your recovery.

What speeds up your recovery from a nervous breakdown

There’s much you can do to recover more quickly from a nervous or mental breakdown.

One of the best actions to take is to connect with an online counsellor whom you can contact every day if you need to for a very reasonable monthly fee (in comparison with finding one local to you).

The following, which you do have control over, can help to speed up your recovery too:

  • Not fighting against the reality of your condition. I truly know how difficult this can be, but if nothing else then try simply to accept that it is what it is.
  • Not giving yourself a hard time. That means not saying anything to yourself that would undermine you. Treat yourself as your very best friend.
  • Not living your life at the same speed as you had been doing. Look out for opportunities to slow the pace down a little, e.g. by meditating, doing something creative, being outdoors in nature. Take active rest, because sitting still is probably not going to work for you right now (unless you are actually able to sleep).

I’ve set out a 3-step treatment plan to help you recover from your breakdown, so if you’re ready to get back in the driving seat then hop over there now.

If you’re here because you’re doing some research on how to help your spouse or partner through a breakdown, I’ve got you covered too: How to help someone with a breakdown.


As I’m sure you’ll understand, nervous breakdown recovery times vary hugely. The speed of recovery depends on:

  • the severity and duration of the issues that caused the breakdown
  • how able you are to handle challenges and difficulties generally
  • how actively you commit to helping yourself recover

One thing’s for sure: the quicker you start finding the support you need and helping yourself to get better, the quicker your recovery will be. My site is full of help and advice to get you started so start exploring, and know that I’m on your side. I know you can do this :-)

Banner: Need advice? Get help - talk to a licensed therapist now.
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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