For many, the term “mental breakdown” conjures up images of dramatic Hollywood moments or public outbursts. Such depictions can skew our understanding of what a mental breakdown actually is and what causes it. In a world that’s ever-increasing in its pace and pressures, it’s essential to demystify this topic and approach it with sensitivity and understanding.
What’s a mental breakdown?
A mental breakdown is not a clinical term found in the medical lexicon. Instead, it’s a colloquial expression that generally refers to a person experiencing an overwhelming bout of mental distress. This can manifest as an inability to function in everyday activities, severe emotional distress, or even dissociation from reality.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all reason behind a mental breakdown. The triggers are as diverse as our individual lives. However, several common factors could lead to a person feeling overwhelmed:
- Prolonged stress. Continuous exposure to stressful situations without adequate breaks or coping mechanisms can wear down even the most resilient among us.
- Traumatic events. A single traumatic event can be the tipping point for some. This could range from personal losses, such as the death of a loved one, to witnessing or experiencing violence.
- Chronic illness or pain. Constant physical distress can have a direct impact on mental well-being.
- Burnout. Particularly in a culture that often glorifies overwork, burnout from personal or professional commitments can creep up unnoticed.
- Substance abuse. Over-reliance on drugs or alcohol can exacerbate mental health issues and potentially lead to breakdowns.
Recognising the signs is the first step in helping oneself or others. Common symptoms of an impending or ongoing mental breakdown include:
- Intense anxiety or panic attacks. A feeling of impending doom, racing heart, or even physical symptoms like sweating and trembling.
- Depressive symptoms. These can range from persistent sadness, lethargy, to a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Dissociation. A feeling of being detached from oneself or the surrounding environment.
- Avoidance behaviour. Refusing to engage in everyday activities, withdrawing from social events, or avoiding specific triggers.
- Impaired thinking. An inability to concentrate, memory problems, or even thoughts of self-harm.
While the experience is undoubtedly daunting, recovery is possible. The journey starts with recognising the need for help. Here are a few steps towards healing:
- Seek professional assistance. Whether through a GP, therapist, or psychiatrist, professional guidance can provide coping tools and, if necessary, medication.
- Build a support network. This doesn’t necessarily mean sharing every detail with everyone. It could be as simple as having a few trusted confidantes or joining a support group.
- Prioritise self-care. Recognise the signs of stress and have proactive routines. This could be regular exercise, meditation, or even engaging in hobbies.
- Limit triggers. While not always possible, reducing exposure to known stressors can be beneficial.
- Educate yourself. Understanding the nuances of your mental health can be empowering. Knowledge often diminishes fear.
A mental breakdown can be an isolating experience, but understanding its roots and manifestations can pave the way for empathy, both for oneself and others. We live in an era of increasing dialogue about mental health, and this is the right direction. Breaking down stigmas and having open conversations can make the journey to recovery less daunting.
Jessica Montreal is an avid mental health advocate and writer hailing from the picturesque state of Vermont. With a penchant for storytelling, Jebediah delves deep into the realms of human psychology and well-being.