When a “Nervous Breakdown” Isn’t a Joking Matter

Some people try to pass off symptoms of depression and anxiety with a passing comment like “I’m having a nervous breakdown!” but the emotional and physical distress associated with depression and anxiety are no joking matter.

“Each person handles stressors differently, but severe and prolonged stress can cause people to experience depressive episodes, anxiety and panic attacks,” said Kenneth Dunn with Memorial Behavioral Health (MBH). “This experience used to be referred to as a ‘nervous breakdown’ or ‘mental breakdown,’ which can occur when a person is no longer able to manage day-to-day activities and responsibilities. A breakdown can be brought on by a recent traumatic event, major life change, financial hardships, chronic medical conditions and even the absence of productive sleep and opportunities to relax.”

A person experiencing a breakdown may quit showing up for work, avoid socializing with family and friends, miss appointments and stop following healthy eating, exercise and even hygiene routines. Other symptoms may include:

  • Consistent down moods, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Anxiety that registers in physical conditions like panic attacks, headaches, difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, trembling or nausea
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Rollercoaster emotions or unexpected outbursts
  • In severe cases: paranoia, hallucinations or flashbacks of a traumatic event

“Mental fatigue commonly occurs ahead of a breakdown,” said Dunn. “Some people may need to seek professional assistance to determine best treatment options. Others can find relief when they incorporate healthier coping mechanisms like taking a daily walk, eating a more healthy diet, getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night, building time in the day for meditation or just taking regularly scheduled mental health breaks.”

Need to talk? MBH provides telehealth and phone appointments with their patients. Also, MBH offers a free and confidential emotional support hotline, available at 217-588-5509 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to provide support to individuals who experience anxiety or stress, even if they aren’t MBH patients.

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