We all go through hard times, but everyone handles stress differently. Some people manage to seamlessly power through (lucky them), while others start to exhibit signs of a nervous breakdown. Losing control during tough times can be scary, and whether it's a friend, family member, co-worker, or even yourself, you''ll want to be aware of when someone is going through something rough and may need some help.
Technically, a "nervous breakdown" isn't a real psychological term, but it's what most people tend to describe a severe panic attack or depressive episodes that become debilitating. "When symptoms of behavioral disorders escalate, they can manifest itself with panic attacks and other physical symptoms of stress which can cause a person cease functioning normally and require hospitalization," says Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC over email.
Because "nervous breakdown" is a laymen's term, there is no checklist of diagnosable symptoms, but basically, it means someone's stress and emotions have affected them so much, it's influencing all parts of their life and they're no longer able to function as they normally do. Someone who seems to be breaking down could need to be treated for a variety of issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, or more.
If you suspect someone you know might be having a nervous breakdown, you'll want to look out for these eight telltale signs.
A nervous breakdown usually comes from timely, stress-related incidences, according to psychiatrist Dr. Susan Edelman over email. Stress is the first sign that someone could be having a breakdown. "Although laypeople define these conditions as time-limited, in many cases, people have a relapse of their symptoms when they are under stress at another time in their lives," says Edelman. "That's why it's so important to get treatment for any of these conditions."
Stressors that can lead to a breakdown include working too much, says Edelman. If you notice someone acting strangely who has too heavy of a plate at work and are working insane hours, this could lead to a breakdown.
Part of stressing out and working too much includes feeling overly exhausted, says Edelman. All the stress and anxiety can lead to sleep deprivation, which only perpetuates the fatigue.
4They're Having Panic Attacks
A nervous breakdown often leads to frequent panic attacks. These symptoms can include anything form "palpitations, pounding heart, accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling and shaking, sensation of smothering, feelings of choking, chest pain or discomfort, nausea, abdominal stress, dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling faint, chills, derealization, fear of 'losing control,' and fear of dying," says Maksimow.
"Someone who is having a nervous breakdown may preoccupied with paranoid thoughts of harming others or thinking that others are out to get them," says Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC over email. "They may be having psychotic symptoms, such as auditory or visual hallucinations. They may see and hear things that are not there, the voices may be telling them to harm themselves, or that they can not trust others."
6They Don't Enjoy The Things They Used to
"When people are depressed, their mood might be down, or they might just have trouble enjoying the things they enjoyed in the past," says Edelman. "A 'breakdown' suggests their symptoms are likely to be so severe as to impair their social or occupational functioning.
7They Have Mood Swings
Certain types of nervous breakdowns seem to be more related, and in depression to just feeling anxious or depressed, someone could experience severe mood swings "Symptoms of other behavioral health problems can manifest themselves in a way that people describe it as a 'nervous breakdown' such as Bipolar Disorder, PTSD and Panic Disorder," says Maksimow.
8They Feel A Loss Of Control
Most people use the term "nervous breakdown" to describe an episode where someone feels like they they have lost complete control of themselves. "One sign is that they do not feel safe or are preoccupied that the thought of hurting themselves is the only solution," says Martinez. "This is why people feel like it is a 'break down' for the person, as all their tools and coping have completely left them."