How To Cope With A Nervous Breakdown - A Personal Story

Last updated on : March 26 2023

Pensive girl with hands in lap

Article Summary

Whatever label you use, a nervous breakdown is not something to take lightly. And, it does not mean that someone only needs a little break to rest. On the contrary, it is a serious situation. 

Having suffered through one myself, here are some of my insights into recognizing when you or someone you know is heading down that road, along with suggestions for getting back on the healthy one.

Jump to the section you want by using the links below. 

Burn Out

Defining Nervous Breakdown

What To Watch For In Terms Of Symptoms

What Can Cause A Breakdown?

How To Help Yourself

Frequently Asked Questions

Burn Out

"Nervous Breakdown" is a term that is no longer used by the medical community, but it is a great way to describe how it FEELS. I know because I've been there. Your doctor may refer to it as "situational depression" or "anxiety disorder".

Others may call it "burn-out".

Whatever label you use, a breakdown is not something to take lightly. And, it does not mean that someone only needs a little break to rest. It is a serious situation. 

Here are some of my insights into recognizing when you or someone you know is heading down that road, along with suggestions for getting back on the healthy one. 

It's a long, uncomfortable trip down and one you will want to avoid. But if you do find yourself there, take heart, you can come back. So read on.

For those of you who are reading this and can identify, know you are not alone.

Defining Nervous Breakdown

In my own words...

After having been through one myself, here is how--in my own words--I would define a "nervous breakdown":

"A seemingly sudden loss of ability to cope with everyday life. A sense of the complete collapse of inner strength and drive." 

This feeling is usually preceded by months of unrelenting, unmonitored stress in more than one area of one's life, resulting in the inability to regain strength and composure with the normal few hours or days of rest.

Recovery usually requires removal from the stressful event or situation, long-term rest, counseling in coping abilities, and, possibly, medication.

What To Watch For In Terms Of Symptoms

Pay attention and watch out for signs. Here are some of the things you may experience as you near a "crash", so to speak.

Maybe these can help you recognize your signs and stop it in its tracks before it goes too far. Try and catch it early.

Remember, when you are in the middle of it, you don't necessarily recognize it for what it is. If people start asking you what is wrong or saying you don't seem like your usual self, pay attention.

Difficulty focusing on things. When shifting from one thing to another, getting disoriented and forgetting what you are doing.

Feeling angry and irritable much of the time.

● I no longer want to go out for those get-togethers with co-workers. Spending more time by yourself.

Being frequently late for work. Finding yourself behind and stressing yourself out further by hurrying.

● You may stop finding joy in anything. Oh, you may still laugh at times, but, somehow nothing at all interests you.

● Having trouble with sleep: getting to sleep, staying asleep, and difficulty getting up in the morning.

● Being frequently sick and having headaches.

Finally, a version of what happened to me may happen to you: 

One day, you go to work and feel extremely depressed. You may not be able to pull yourself out of it. You might feel panicky and become almost non-functional and try to find a "safe" place. You may not be able to stop crying. At this point, you could be placed on a 2 to 8-week medical leave.

You may crash so suddenly that it takes you by surprise. Don't you want to avoid this?

What Can Cause A Breakdown?

When you are on the way to a breakdown, you tend not to recognize it. 

Because you are so immersed in the experience, you are not necessarily thinking rationally. Still, because it can develop over the years, you have time to catch it if you pause and pay attention. 

To show you how it can build up, here is a summary of my experience.

No one thing on its own would have been too much for me, but the glass can get too full too quickly and stay that way for too long.

What is stressful for me might not necessarily be so for you. Think about how things are accumulating for you and change the things that you can change.

Major Move

I moved from the Northwest to the Northeast--a pretty big culture change. I went from a very laid-back environment to an intense and fast-paced one and, yet, I had not anticipated a problem with it. 

Investigate these sorts of changes before you make them and be realistic about your expectations and have a plan.

Loss Of Job

I think this is one of the more difficult things for us all to deal with. It is such a major part of our perceived identity. So many of us go through it and, yet, and we feel lost and alone. 

It's best to get back up on your feet as quickly as you can. Stay active.

Change In Living Situation

After living alone for many years out west, I married and moved into a home with extended family when I moved east. I did not realize how hard it would be and did not prepare myself for the change. Know your limits.

Stressful Work Environment

Not only was my career itself inherently stressful, but the specific situation was, as well. I did not have the autonomy I was used to in previous jobs. Besides, I had a long drive. I tried, perhaps too hard, to be good, to please. 

The lesson here is to take care of yourself first and don't put up with a situation that is not working well for you.

No Opportunity for a Break

I spent long hours during holidays at work and could not take breaks when I needed them. It would have been a good idea to get myself out of such a stressful work environment or, at least, insist on much-needed breaks.

Death of a Close Relative

I spent 5 days and nights with my father by his bedside while he lay in a coma. I tried to do too much on my own. I felt honored to be there for him and thought I would have a very spiritual response to his death, but I was a mess. 

The lesson here was: don't try to do it all alone. Accept help.

No Let-Up

Of course, there were other stressors in there as well, some big, some small, but it was the constant presence of stress that did me in and the feeling of lack of control at work. 

My body was constantly pushing out stress hormones and did not have time to recover fully. Finally, my system just shut down.

How To Help Yourself

Here is a list of what has worked for me.

● Know yourself: your limits, your particular stressors, what you can handle and can't. Don't fool yourself. (Sometimes, though, we learn the hard way, don't we?)

● Find a healthy outlet for stressExercise is a perfect one. Get yourself out there in the world. See friends. Go for a walk even if you don't want to. Force yourself.

● Take time every day to create some calm in your life. Meditate. Try Yoga.

● Be familiar with your childhood fears. When irrational fears come to your head, talk to them as an adult with a rational response. Please write it down.

● If you can keep a short diary every day, it will help you see, on paper, what is causing you the most stress and how long it has been going on - shedding a little light of reality on the situation.

● When you find that a certain situation is causing you constant, unrelenting stress, find a way to get out of the situation or to minimize it somehow.

● If you need help, get it. It's not worth holding out and thinking you can do it all by yourself. If the kind of help you are getting or the person who is helping you is not right for you, find someone else. Don't give up. Don't let money be an obstacle. Try local medical clinics, social service organizations, support groups, churches.....

● If friends and family offer you help, take it. That is what we are here for - to help each other through this life.

It takes time to recover, but you WILL recover. You may need to sleep A LOT. Get yourself out in the world as much as you can. Be patient and gentle with yourself.

● Consider helping other people. Studies show that this increases your sense of well-being, even if it is as simple as holding the door for someone and smiling. It's a good start.

This is my happy place

About The Author

Erica R. Gibson is a Ph.D. psychologist. She got her degree at Colorado Christian University. At this moment, Erica provides her patients with online consultations because of the pandemic. Erica is highly interested in keeping up with advancing technologies. In this case, she spends her spare time reading various blogs to obtain new knowledge and improve her professional skills.

You can contact her via email [email protected] or mobile at 720-980-7254 for personal consultations. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the questions most frequently asked by our readers.

1. What is a nervous breakdown?

A nervous breakdown, also known as a mental or emotional breakdown, is a period of intense emotional or psychological distress that can result in an inability to function normally. It may be triggered by stress, trauma, and other personal or environmental factors.

2. What are some common symptoms of a nervous breakdown?

Symptoms can vary from person to person, but common ones include:

  • Overwhelming anxiety or fear.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Depression.
  • Detachment from reality.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Lack of energy or motivation.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

3. How can I cope with a nervous breakdown? 

Coping with a nervous breakdown can be a challenging process, but there are steps you can take to help manage your symptoms and regain a sense of balance.

Some effective coping strategies include seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor, practicing self-care and relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga, regular exercise, connecting with loved ones for emotional support, and taking time off from work or other responsibilities.

Is it possible to recover from a nervous breakdown? 

Yes, it is possible to recover from a nervous breakdown with the proper treatment and support.

Recovery may take time and effort, but with the help of a mental health professional and a robust support system, many people can regain their emotional stability and resume their normal activities.

Can a nervous breakdown be prevented? 

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent a nervous breakdown, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of experiencing one.

This includes managing stress and other triggers, taking care of your physical and emotional health, getting enough rest and exercise, and seeking help early if you begin to experience symptoms of distress.

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