The term ‘nervous breakdown’ is often used colloquially to describe an individual’s reaction to stressful events. Once used to refer to a wide range of mental afflictions, such as depression and anxiety, it more accurately describes an intense period of extreme mental distress.
While it is not technically a medical term, it does describe a certain set of symptoms of stress. During a nervous breakdown, the individual is unable to function in their everyday life, finding even the most mundane and ordinary tasks too overwhelming to accomplish.
Though the definition is not set, professionals generally believe a nervous breakdown occurs when emotional and physical stress reaches the point of being so intolerable that functionality is significantly disrupted.
Signs and Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown
Learn about the signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown now.
1. Panic Attacks
Panic attacks, especially when experienced often or regularly, are one of the most obvious signs of an impending nervous breakdown. Every individual experience nervousness or panic at various points in their lives.
Stressful, daunting, or high-pressure situations elicit this natural response in the brain, causing a human being to worry about the potential consequences and outcomes.
Panic attacks, however, often arise without these stimuli. They can appear seemingly out of nowhere and have a rapid onset, with no stimulus instigating the subsequent response.
During an attack, an individual can experience a sudden, rapid increase in heart rate, racing mind, and debilitating sense of worry or dread, among other physical manifestations. These incidents may last a few minutes or even longer, varying on a case-by-case basis.
2. Tense Muscles
Tensing of the muscles is another common symptom of a nervous breakdown. Again, this is not necessarily true if there is another physiological explanation, such as regular poor posture or intense physical activity.
Rather, tense muscles in this scenario appear to evolve for no reason, indicating the patient has been clenching and in a non-relaxed state regularly.
Regularly stretching, practicing relaxation techniques, and attending yoga classes can greatly reduce the appearance of this symptom and contribute to general feelings of increased well-being.
3. Clammy Hands
Clammy hands are commonly reported by patients suffering from a nervous ailment. An uncontrollable and often embarrassing symptom, it can arise at any time.
The hands become cold and moist with nervous sweat, often lasting for minutes or even hours. Some individuals who may be on the verge of a nervous breakdown can experience clammy hands nearly all the time.
While sweating is the body’s natural response to overheating, it is an attempt to cool the body, individuals suffering from mental struggles can sweat at seemingly inappropriate times.
When the body regularly sweats in situations that are not responses to extreme heat or physical exertion, it is a sign of a more severe medical condition.
4. Trembling and Shaking
Unless an individual is directly presented with an imminent source of sadness or fear, most typically for grievous bodily injury, trembling and shaking are not typical responses.
Severe anxiety increases an individual’s blood pressure and leads to involuntary bodily movements. These movements can be small or dramatic and can affect either certain areas, such as the extremities, or the body as a whole.
Sometimes, in fact, the vibrations the patient is feeling may not even be visible to others. During these times, some doctors suggest trying to focus on tightening and releasing the muscles to stop the tremors and regain control of the body.
This exercise also takes one’s mind, at least temporarily, off of the mental happenings that occur during an episode.
5. Trauma Flashbacks
While the aforementioned symptoms of a nervous breakdown manifest in a physical sense, flashbacks to a previously experienced traumatic event are not always visible.
Sometimes, these events only occur in the individual’s mind, making it more difficult for loved ones or practitioners to identify and intervene. Trauma flashbacks are often a sign of diagnosed or undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder or another mental illness.
When symptoms of a flashback to trauma do present visibly, the patient will likely be experiencing any of the previously mentioned physical symptoms, such as clamminess, sweating, panicking, and tensing of the muscles.
However, they may also have widened, darting eyes, a clenched jaw, or show facial signs of extreme distress. The patient may also make abrupt movements in response to sounds or movements by others.