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Nervous Breakdowns: Explained!

Nervous Breakdowns: Explained! 626 417 kupplinadmin

We have all heard the term nervous breakdown at least once in our life and despite the term being very common it may come as a surprise that it is not a medical one. Although the meaning of the term may vary slightly according to different cultures, a nervous breakdown is more often than not a body’s reaction to an extremely stressful situation, where a person may cease to function normally in the day to day. The term was commonly used in the past for a myriad of mental health illnesses but it is not the case anymore.

Think of a nervous breakdown as the body’s way of keeping you safe and shutting down, whereby the results are not as peaceful as one would like, but as a result one is forced to take notice and address the problems that may be causing the actual stress. In many situations people fail to realise that mental illnesses, especially those that manifest as anxiety, are usually symptoms of underlying problems and not the cause themselves. So even if someone is an addict, there is an underlying reason for the addiction and things are not so black and white.

There is no one that is immune to stress or the related anxiety that it causes  but if the effects of the anxiety becomes emotional and even physically unbearable and the signs persist for more than a few days, whereby they hinder your everyday routine, your mental health may need a check before you are entirely overwhelmed and feel what was referred to as a nervous breakdown.

Extreme stress is not only felt emotionally but it can also manifest as physical signs, with muscle tension, unexplained aches, autoimmune diseases such as alopecia, insomnia or too much sleep, gastrointestinal issues and even trembling and shaking all being signs of overwhelming stress that will impair functionality. Other signs can include palpitations that often mimic heart attacks.

Showing up to work and other commitments also becomes tedious especially when you feel like you are at the brink of tears or tearing someone apart because you are so irritable. Other emotional signs of a nervous breakdown are feeling hopeless or depressed for more than two weeks, where even basic eating and hygiene habits are compromised. Not taking a shower one day because you feel cold or lazy is ok but not taking a shower because you don’t want to get out of bed for the third week is a definite sign of trouble. Even speech and movement may be impaired where you may do both things a lot more slowly or you may always be poised for a flight or fight response, despite no obvious threat. Losing interest in hobbies or even sex, a weakened immunity system, losing focus or rapid weight loss and gain and even suicidal thoughts may all signal a nervous breakdown.

In the worst cases, some people may lose touch with reality entirely, which is also referred to as a state of psychosis by professionals, where people may experience auditory and visual hallucinations coupled with paranoia and other delusions.

As I mentioned before, the symptoms of a nervous breakdown are a way that your brain and body tell you to slow down and take stock of the things that may be stressing you out. There are many steps that you can take to support yourself before things really get out of hand.  Seeking a therapist or counsellor is always a good idea. You can look for a therapist that best meets your needs, and particularly into cognitive behavioural therapy, if needed, couple that with anxiety reducing medicine on the advice of a psychiatrist (NEVER self -medicate or take anxiety reducing pills without a prescription). Practising meditation or yoga and deep breathing may also help relax a racing mind while even trying to resolve the source of the stress is also a good idea. The source of the stress could be a job, or children or even some other family member or environment. Exercise releases endorphins and is always a good way to help give your body a boost but remember you would have to at least get in two hours if not more of exercise in a week for it to help. A trouble shared is a trouble halved and talking to trusted people may also help. Staying away from drugs including marijuana, which greatly increases the chances of someone going through psychosis, alcohol and caffeine, is also advised.

Since a nervous breakdown is not an actual illness, diagnosing it is difficult but if you are experiencing any of the above mentioned signs and they have persisted for more than two weeks; it may be time to seek help.

– Nida Khan

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