A nervous breakdown refers to a severe state of mental distress, whereby you find yourself unable to perform daily life tasks. You may be unable to function entirely, and the breakdown may occur comorbidly with mental health conditions like stress disorders, depressive disorders, or anxiety disorders.
Multiple different factors go into defining a mental breakdown, and there’s no one clear meaning for it. Essentially, if a severe negative physical or emotional state causes non-functionality, it can be considered a nervous breakdown. It can be frightening to undergo such an ordeal, leaving you feeling confused and guilty, which only worsens matters.
But how can you spot the signs that a nervous breakdown is on the horizons? What can you do to prevent or avoid it, based on these symptoms? Here is how psychiatrists reveal 9 early signs of a nervous breakdown and how to avoid it to help you better understand.
1. Changes In Sleep Patterns
Your sleep pattern is typically crucial to your health. When it gets jogged out of the norm, it can increase anxiety levels, which increases sleep problems, which increases more anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle that can eventually send you spiraling into a nervous breakdown.
Doctor of psychology and medical psychology and psychiatry professor Erin Engle notes that these changes can vary from person to person. You may:
- Start sleeping in excess as a method of avoiding the issues of daily life.
- Be unable to sleep at all due to buildups of anxiety and stress from a brain working in constant overdrive.
- Wind up with very unusual or uneven sleep-wake habits that harm you in the long run
The moment you begin to notice sleep changes, do what you can to regulate the time you spend in bed. Keep the same waking and sleeping hours, make sure your bedroom environment is positive for relaxation, or even take melatonin supplements to help you keep the right schedule.
2. Daily Life Feels Unmanageable
A little bit of stress doesn’t usually ruin your entire day. But if you’re at the point where everyday life is impossible to perform, and you’re struggling with basic function, you could be in dire need of some rest.
Licensed clinical social worker and Newport Academy program development director Heather Senior Monroe states that when even small daily tasks start feeling like too much, or when even simple social situations are feeling impossible, it’s a sign of a nervous breakdown. You need to step back and take a break until life feels like something you can handle again. If possible, seeking help from loved ones may be necessary, too.
3. An Inability To Concentrate
When you have short bursts of stress, it can boost your brainpower in surprising ways by sending hormones running at top speed to fulfill certain tasks. These hormones help with concentration and memory.
But when stress becomes a long-term problem, it can make focusing on anything impossible because you’re extra attuned to external distractions, says psychiatrist, medical doctor, and neurologist David A. Merrill, Ph.D. You could start losing the ability to concentrate at work or even endanger yourself by losing focus when you’re doing something like driving.
In fact, extreme stress levels can eventually lead to a lot of cortisol, which is a stress hormone responsible for fight-or-flight. Research states that this can even cause you to experience memory loss. It might wind up being logged as something traumatic for you and repressed. If you’re starting to notice your memory getting shoddy or are losing concentration at work, it might be time to take a breather before you hit nervous breakdown mode.
4. Fatigue is a Sign of Impending Nervous Breakdown
Fatigue is a common symptom of a nervous breakdown approach. This is even more true when you can’t pinpoint any specific reason for the fatigue. Engle states that feelings of extreme weakness are also somewhat common among those leading to a nervous breakdown.
This fatigue may also include:
- A lack of interest in activities that you usually like
- A loss in libido or an inability to perform intimately
- Waking up feeling tired despite a long rest
Fatigue like this may require prolonged resting beyond just a couple of nights of sleep. You may also need to try a change of pace from your everyday routine. It’s also a good idea to see a doctor if this kind of fatigue lasts for a week or more, as it may point to other health issues.
5. You Have An Upset Stomach All The Time
An occasional upset stomach isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even when it’s caused by stress. But constant discomfort of the belly mixed with other symptoms could be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome, which studies have found has links to chronic stress. Symptoms of IBS include:
- Abdominal pain
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that a huge percentage of individuals who received irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, treatment experience a mental health condition of some kind. This may include depression, anxiety, or stress disorders. As such, if you have IBS, it could likely be because of a mental health problem. Seeking treatment can help calm down the IBS.
Trouble breathing can seem like a serious health condition – and it still is something worth checking out. But keep in mind that it can also simply be a classic symptom of anxiety. If you find yourself having trouble inhaling and exhaling during times of stress, you’re experiencing normal anxiety symptoms that could be pointing to a nervous breakdown waiting to happen.
The body’s natural stress response causes rapid, shallow breathing when anxious to help bring oxygen more rapidly throughout the body. When needed, this helps the body kick to overdrive. When not needed, it can just cause unnecessary distress.
Learn to use breathing exercises to help keep yourself calm when you notice these breathing troubles. Learning to regulate breathing can also help you with stress management, so it’s not a bad thing to try out. However, if the breathing difficulties occur very frequently, it’s a good idea to try addressing the potential root of the matter, as it could be a sign of something more physically harmful.
7. Your Appetite Has Changed
When you’re under stress, the body’s neurotransmitters cause a fight or flight instinct, which involves a surge of adrenaline through the body. When that adrenaline dies down, though, the body has lost a lot of energy, triggering appetite changes that seek to refuel, says Merrill.
But appetite doesn’t just change in one way. It’s possible that it can be affected in numerous different manners, says Engle. Here are some examples of ways your appetite may have changed: