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What is a Nervous Breakdown?

I remember my mom telling me in a whisper about those who have had a "nervous breakdown". When she was going through Perimenopause, she told me she feels "she is having a nervous breakdown". The word scared me but I really didn't know what it meant. However, I have often thought of this myself.. 😩 Am I Having a Nervous Breakdown? Is it anxiety attacks, or panic? depression? ... and more.. why do I feel like I just can't handle life???

Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D. from Mayo Clinic states that The term "nervous breakdown" is used by some people to describe a stressful situation when life's demands become physically and emotionally overwhelming.

It affects a person's ability to meet their own needs and do daily tasks and activities. The term was often used in the past, but mental health professionals no longer use it. Instead, you may hear the term "mental health crisis."

Nervous breakdown isn't a medical term. What some people call a nervous breakdown may indicate a mental health problem that's causing a mental health crisis and needs attention. Two examples are depression and anxiety, which can be treated by medicines, talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, or both.

Signs of a nervous breakdown vary from person to person and culture to culture. Generally, a nervous breakdown means that a person can't function as usual.

For example, a person may:

  • Call in sick to work for days or longer.

  • Avoid social events and miss appointments.

  • Have trouble eating, sleeping, or staying clean.

  • Talk about feeling completely hopeless or helpless.

Other unusual or problematic behaviors may be symptoms of a nervous breakdown.

If you feel that you're having a nervous breakdown, get help. Talk to your primary care provider or seek help from a mental health professional. If you're feeling like you may take your own life, contact a suicide hotline:

  • In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. It's available 24 hours a day, every day. Or use the Lifeline Chat. Services are free and private.

  • U.S. veterans or service members who are in crisis can call 988 and then press "1" for the Veterans Crisis Line. Or text 838255. Or chat online.

  • The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in the U.S. has a Spanish-language phone line at 1-888-628-9454 (toll-free).

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