At one point in time, the term ‘nervous breakdown’ referred to a great number of mental disorders covering everything from a moment of panic to a complete break from reality, now classified as a ‘psychotic episode.’ Over time each of these mental disorders were given very precise names and the term nervous breakdown became, for the most part, obsolete. While you won’t hear a psychiatrist referring to a metal disorder as a nervous breakdown, the terminology is still common among laypeople. For that reason, learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown may be extremely difficult.
Not All Signs and Symptoms Point to Mental Illness
Even though each mental disorder may manifest in totally different behaviors, there are some general patterns which can be indicative of more than one illness. Sometimes it is possible to recognize the signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown by observing any dramatic changes in a person’s behavior. If a person who has always been outgoing and fun-loving suddenly turns introverted and reclusive, that should raise a red flag almost immediately.
However, not all signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown are as transparent. Some signs often go undiagnosed for altogether too long because they could also be symptomatic of other physiological conditions or illnesses. Conversely, sometimes symptoms of real physical illnesses are labeled as ‘all in your mind’ whereby proper medical intervention is not sought. For example, rapid and unexplained weight loss might be attributed to stress, but it could also be indicative of some underlying intestinal disease or other physiological problem.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Mental Disorders
While it is true that sudden changes in a person’s weight could be a sign of mental illness, there are other common signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown that are much easier to detect. Here are just a few of the more common signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for:
- Loss of interest in family, social life or work
- Sudden alienation from loved ones and/or friends
- Break from normal sleep patterns (either more or less than normal)
- Convinced that others are trying to cause them harm (paranoia)
- Sudden mood swings
- Feelings of superiority and invincibility
- Anxiety/Panic Attacks
- Hearing voices no one else hears
- Seeing people others can’t see
- Thoughts of suicide
- Violent outbursts
- Inability to pursue normal tasks and relationships
- Alcohol/substance abuse
Those are among the most common sign and symptoms of a nervous breakdown, but as you can see from the list, many can also point to some other problem. When you can recognize more than a few of those behaviors that are a break from the norm, chances are good that there is an underlying medical condition.
Seeking Help When Sign and Symptoms Appear
One you have learned to recognize some of the common signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown, the most important thing is to seek help as soon as possible. While it might not be possible to spot our own behavioral breaks from the norm, we can be there for those around us if these warning flags are raised. Whether you recognize that you are exhibiting many of these behaviors or that they are apparent in someone you love, there are a number of ways in which you can get help from trained professionals.
If the person is in danger of hurting themselves or others, such as during an explosive outburst, many states allow for the next of kin to involuntarily sign that person into a hospital for observation. Some states require the behavior be witnessed by a police officer, social worker or medical professional. In any case, if there is imminent danger involved, call the police or an ambulance. This is especially important if the person needs to be restrained. Learn to recognize the difference between immediate dangers and those which pose no immediate threat. Sometimes you might have the liberty of taking the time to call mental health hospitals and clinics in your area to set up an intake appointment.
Even though referring to a mental episode or disorder as a nervous breakdown is not longer fashionable, it is still important to recognize the signs and symptoms so that proper treatment can be obtained. Whether you call it obsessive compulsive disorder, paranoia, manic depression, a panic attack or a nervous breakdown, the end result is still the same. That person needs help! One last piece of advice would be that if you find yourself beginning to experience any of these behavioral changes, either seek professional help or talk to someone you love. By so doing, you will have someone watching out for your wellbeing should the illness progress.