Although “nervous breakdown” is not a medical term, it is still a common term for describing the impact of an emotional and physical incapacity to cope with life, to the point of collapse. It is often referred to flippantly and disparagingly, yet it can have life-threatening repercussions if it is not dealt with efficiently and in a timely manner. Everyone will be affected differently, and there are many reasons for the breakdown in the first place, but there are some common signs that, if spotted in time, can avert disaster. Although the condition should never be self-diagnosed, the early signs can at least be the basis for a visit to a medical professional for advice.
Signs of a Nervous Breakdown
Feelings of desperation and despair descend upon you as fatigue, insomnia, palpitations, excessive sweating and headaches along with a host of other possible ailments come visiting as a result of a nervous or mental breakdown. Here are some symptoms and signs as below:
Long periods of stress can lead up to a breakdown. This is an exhausting situation for a body to go through and so the sufferer is likely to feel fatigued all the time, especially if sleep patterns are being disrupted. To get up in the morning can be a real chore, partly because of the tiredness and partly because the will to face the day has gone. It may be possible to cope with this for a while, but in time, it will result in a lack of concentration and a total lack of will to get through the day. In turn, this will affect every aspect of the person’s life, from relationship with colleagues, to the ability to work and even simply take care of oneself.
People in the throes of a breakdown will find it difficult to cope with other people. They will probably feel very alone and that no-one else understands them. After an initial phase of trying to get their point of view across, they will give up and withdraw from everyone around them. Loved ones and colleagues will feel that they are very distant and uncaring – and indeed, they will probably find it very hard to cope with anyone’s problems other than their own. In some cases, there may seem to be a deliberate attempt to sabotage a relationship, because the sufferer no longer feels that they deserve to have friends or people whom they care about.
Change in eating habits
When people are depressed, it can be very hard for them to care about what they eat and how it is affecting their body. This can develop in different ways. Some may ‘comfort eat’ and put on a lot of weight as a result. Others may struggle to find the enthusiasm to eat and may suddenly lose a lot of weight. They may struggle to show interest even in food that was once enjoyed and craved. Sudden highs and lows in mood can come about as a result of this, because energy levels are always changing.
Moodiness and irritability are likely to be frequent early symptoms of a mental breakdown. The mood can change many times during the day, from abject misery to elation and then back down again. Violent anger and floods of tears are likely to be evident in many sufferers, only to be quickly followed by apologies for their behavior. This, in turn, will drive people away, giving the sufferer all the more reason to feel that they are disliked and are not worthy of help or friendship. This makes it very difficult for loved ones to see the underlying problem.
Early signs of a nervous breakdown are likely to include anxiety; the persistent feeling that the individual cannot cope and that his entire world is about to come crumbling down around him. Sufferers may wake in the morning, or in the middle of the night, with their heart pounding and the fear that something terrible is going to happen – even when there is nothing obviously wrong. They may start to cry for seemingly no reason and then struggle to explain exactly what is wrong. In some cases, there may be a full-blown panic attack, even when carrying out everyday chores.
Addiction to alcohol and drugs
In the early stages of this condition, many people may turn to alcohol and drugs in the hope of escaping from their problems for a short time. This can be a particularly telling sign of a real problem, especially if the sufferer does not usually drink or take drugs. The period of euphoria that the boost to the system brings will quickly be followed by a period of deep depression which, for someone already feeling as low as they possibly can, can have serious repercussions. It can also cause problems at work if the sufferer is still able to work by this point.
What can begin as depression and low self-worth can eventually lead to thoughts of suicide, although hopefully that is all they will be in the early stages. The sufferer may struggle to see the reason for living and may wish to escape from their torment once and for all. This can be a very difficult time for all involved, because friends and family may be scared to leave their loved one alone, yet all the loved one wants to do is to be left alone with their own thoughts, or to escape in alcohol or drugs. Suicidal thoughts should be treated very seriously and the sufferer should be persuaded, or if necessary, forced, to seek help. In extreme cases, the sufferer may suffer from psychosis.
The sooner the person suffering from the early symptoms of breakdown can get help, the better. All too many people don’t seek help, or wait until they are absolutely desperate, by which time it can take a lot longer to recover. A nervous breakdown is not something that can simply be ‘gotten over’ and because of this, it should be taken very seriously.
Dealing with a Nervous Breakdown
The causes of the condition can be many and varied, but when it happens, it can prove to be a very traumatic experience for the sufferer and their families. How can we deal effectively with this ailment?
1. Accept that a reasonable period of time will have to pass before a person recovers from a breakdown. Some will turn immediately to drugs of one kind or another to bring relief, but often, this relief is only temporary. A cure for the condition will ultimately require patience and self-control given the nature of the malady, one that affects the nervous system.
2. Try to find the cause or causes for your condition. As this is not primarily a physical illness, but a condition usually resulting from some emotional upheaval or situation, consider events or circumstances in your life that may have been the catalyst.
For some, marriage problems, stress at work or even their own personality problems have been the root causes of a full-blown breakdown.
3. Seek the kind of medical help appropriate to the condition. This does not necessarily mean consulting a psychiatrist. You might find that certain natural medicines recommended by your own doctor will aid you to recovery. At times, treatment from a chiropractor, osteopath or massage specialist can help you find the relaxation level you need to help you on the road to recovery.
4. If the cause is tenseness, being unable to relax, put forth an effort, to practice relaxing, taking time for it. While lying on a firm bed or couch try relaxing one part of the body at a time: the hands and forearms, then the feet, legs, neck muscles, and so on.
Give consideration to relaxing when at work. Try to adopt a steady, regular pace rather than a hasty one. Learn to slow down.
Take time to practice relaxing before going to bed at night as it can help you enjoy a restful sleep.
Listening to melodious, soothing and cheerful music can also greatly help your nerves. Anything that contributes to a relaxed frame of mind is to be welcomed in assisting your recovery.