An emotional breakdown describes a period of overwhelming mental distress. During this time of psychological disorder a person suffering cannot function in their everyday life.
It is as if their backbone has been torn out from them. Their identity has been ripped apart meaning they doubt their beliefs and dismiss their worth.
They are terrified, lonely and feel utterly debilitated.
One thing they are likely to be starkly aware of is that how they are now is having a negative impact on those closest to them. This only makes it worse.
It can mean that a normal life at home, work and in social situations ceases to exist. There seems no end, which adds to the sense of hopelessness.
A breakdown can last anything from a few hours to months and even years. It is also known as a mental or nervous breakdown or reaching rock bottom.
What are the symptoms of an emotional breakdown?
Symptoms vary from person to person. This is often due to the underlying cause. “Emotional breakdown” is a term often used to describe someone suffering from depression, anxiety and acute stress disorder.
An emotional breakdown means someone is experiencing:
- Emotional outbursts including anger – sometimes with no obvious cause.
- Panic attacks.
- Depression, such as feeling a loss of hope, a sense of failure, suicidal thoughts and/or self-harm.
- Using drink and/or drugs excessively in an attempt to cope.
- Detachment from reality and a loss of sense of self.
- Paranoia such as believing someone is watching.
- Trauma flashbacks (that could indicate post-traumatic stress disorder).
- Isolation, withdrawing from family, friends and colleagues.
- An avoidance of work and social events.
- A withdrawal from responsibilities, such as leaving letters unopened or avoiding parenting duties.
- A loss of self-respect for personal hygiene.
- Eating unhealthily and/or irregularly, including binge eating.
- A general disinterest in life.
- Physical symptoms including dizziness, upset stomach, muscle tension, chest tightness and/or pain, high blood pressure, sweatiness, clammy hands, trembling or shaking, and difficulty breathing.
As “emotional breakdown” suggests, it is the collapse in someone’s healthy mental capabilities. A person having an emotional breakdown will feel unbearably intense symptoms of stress.
They will have an inability to cope with life’s challenges. This means that at times even the simplest thing, such as receiving a letter reminding them to resume a subscription, can trigger floods of tears.
What causes an emotional breakdown?
Everyone is different and no one has exactly the same life experiences. However there are some common life events that have been seen to lead to emotional breakdowns.
- Financial problems.
- Major life changes, such as divorce or moving home.
- Continual work stress.
- Stress in personal life such as having to regularly care for a sick or elderly relative.
- Inability to switch off and relax.
- Lack of sleep.
- Having an injury that affects quality of life.
- Health conditions that are serious and/or long-standing.
- A traumatic incident, including such as the bereavement of a loved one or being in/witnessing a serious accident.
Someone with a family or personal history of anxiety disorders is more likely to have an emotional breakdown. This could be due to not learning how to respond effectively to certain things in life.
One of the problems in today’s world is that many people do not seek help when they should. In one study almost half of people admitted they felt uncomfortable opening up in an emotional way, even to people close to them. This is higher in men with 52 per cent saying they felt embarrassed about this compared to 42 per cent of women.
But people who are struggling always need to talk about their problems with someone they trust or an experienced professional. Otherwise these sort of mental health problems are usually progressive meaning they won’t go away unless they are looked at and new methods for living are adopted.
What can I do to avoid or deal with an emotional breakdown?
Thankfully there is plenty that people can do to avoid or recover from an emotional breakdown.
- Meditate regularly. Every morning has proven to be most beneficial to many people.
- Use breathing techniques to help relaxation.
- Take up enjoyable stress-busting hobbies such as yoga or golf.
- Have regular massages or do other relaxing things such as switching off devices, reading a book at bedtime or soaking in a warm bath.
- Exercise five times a week for 30 minutes. Even a walk is a start – walking in a forest will have beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate and the immune system.
- Ensure there are sufficient breaks at work, and create a realistic to-do list.
- Learn to say no, so as to not take on too much at once.
- Be mindful, doing one thing at a time that you focus on.
- Reduce time spent at work and make sure to switch off from it in the evenings, at weekends and during holidays.
- See a therapist to learn how to reduce stress and to speak about underlying issues.
- Avoid excessive drinking and be aware that certain drugs and caffeine can increase stress levels and adversely affect sleep.
- Sleep for at least seven hours every night.
- Realise that often an emotional breakdown is showing that things need to change.
- Eat healthily with plenty of fruit and vegetables – and less takeaways. Eat at regular times.
- Stroke a pet (visit someone with a pet if you don’t have one).
- Spend more time with friends and family.