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Causes Of Nervous Or Mental Breakdown

Sometimes, when life throws too much at you, it becomes too much to handle. Our body refuses to deal with the situation physically and mentally. We experience a complete breakdown. A nervous breakdown, to be precise. A nervous breakdown, or mental breakdown, is a situation where a person is unable to perform normally owing to extreme stress. However, a nervous breakdown is not an actual medical term or a mental illness, but it could also be an indication of a serious mental health problem like anxiety or depression. Although many internal and external factors can result in a nervous breakdown, some common causes are mentioned here.

1. Stress

Stress is a major cause of a mental breakdown. Stress affects all of us at some point in our lives. But, when the stress is unbearable, the person may experience a mental breakdown. Under stress, the brain releases a hormone called cortisol to counter the effects of stress. Under extreme stress, the plasma level of this hormone can increase two to five time more than normal.1 Excess cortisol causes people to feel hungry and makes them consume larger portions of food. Sometimes, too much stress also causes the person to harbor negative thoughts making them incapable of thinking rationally.

2. Mental Health Conditions

Many factors can cause a nervous or mental breakdown. Mental health conditions are usually the reason behind the breakdown. Some conditions such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects the person’s mental health and may result in a mental breakdown. During a depression, a person feels hopeless and may experience extreme sadness for no particular reason. If this feeling continues for a prolonged duration, it can cause a mental breakdown. In the case of PTSD, a death of a loved one or witnessing a horrific incident can cause severe mental trauma. Even in such cases, due to the increased emotional negativity, some people can become mentally drained.

3. Relationship Problems

This is a problem most of us have experienced. When a relationship runs into rough weather, it can cause immense mental stress to the people involved. It could be a break-up or incompatibility between two friends, or lovers or husband and wife.2 It occurs only in relationships, where a lot of emotion is invested and the relationship means a lot to the persons involved. Marital discord or divorce can drain the energy of a person and leave them incapable of dealing with everyday activities normally. Relationship problems affect people deeply and many people who are unable to come to terms with reality experience a nervous breakdown.

4. Work-Related Difficulty

When pressure or problems at work exceed the toleration limit of an individual, a nervous breakdown may occur. Some working environments can be quite stressful and may adversely affect the mental health of a person. It’s no surprise that many companies adopt methods to beat stress. Right from the sitting posture, to colleagues, to a hard-to-please boss – anything may cause undue physical and mental stress.3 In situations when expectations are not met or when work is not completed, extreme stress occurs and in turn results in a mental breakdown.

5. Financial Crisis

This is a very common problem that plagues many people. And it causes a lot of stress too. In today’s materialistic world, without money, we can’t move a muscle. Financial crisis can bring our lives to a grinding halt. It has a domino effect and everything else in our life that revolves around money is affected. This could mean unpaid bills, soaring debts, defaulting on EMI payments, and the inability to fulfill everyday needs.4 For people who cannot afford treatment to ailments or afford medication, it can be disastrous. In such a scenario, a person can be under immense stress and may have a nervous breakdown.

6. Physical Health Issues

Just as important mental health is, physical health too is crucial for our well-being. When we fall ill, it can turn our lives upside down. And if the health condition is chronic, our spirit can be crushed, making us feel miserable and incapable.5 These constant thoughts of helplessness can lead to a nervous breakdown. Many bed-ridden people, who are dependent on others begin to feel that they are a burden to others and tend to think negatively. To compound the effect, some medication may interfere with the thought process and worsen the condition.

7. Alcohol And Drug Abuse

This one is a classic. Alcohol and drugs can have a profound impact on our lives. Since these can alter our thought patterns and both are extremely addictive, they cause damage when they are consumed and even when they are not available. Under intoxication, our perceptions and actions are adversely affected. When they are not available, withdrawal symptoms can be severe and the reactions and responses of the person undergoing the withdrawal symptoms can be even more bizarre.6 Since alcohol and drugs have both physical and mental implications, they cause stress and irrational behavior, which can result in a nervous breakdown.

8. Academic Pressure

A nervous breakdown does not affect only adults. Even youngsters can be affected due to academic pressure and suffer a breakdown. Sometimes, not doing well in academics can make students feel like they’re worthless and that they lag behind their peers.7 This stress can impact their fragile minds adversely and lead to depression or other conditions. Peer pressure also works similarly and if they are unable to fit into their friends’ group, they feel ignored, isolated and emotionally hurt. In the long run, when the situation becomes extreme, they suffer a nervous breakdown.

The causes behind a nervous or mental breakdown may be varied. But often, they all require the same solution – emotional support, words of comfort and counseling. They require encouragement and simple practices that help them overcome the breakdown. Meditation can help them see the light at the end of the tunnel. They need reassurance and self-confidence, which will enable them to revive the hopes and deal with a situation rationally. If you ever suffer from a nervous breakdown, do not hesitate to seek professional help from an expert.

References   [ + ]

1. Ranabir, Salam, and K. Reetu. “Stress and hormones.” Indian Journal of Endocrinology and metabolism 15, no. 1 (2011): 18.
2, 5. Salleh, Mohd Razali. “Life event, stress and illness.” (2009).
3. Burnett Dean. A breakdown of nervous breakdowns. The Guardian. 2013.
4. Renter Elizabeth. The Dark Link Between Financial Stress and Depression. U.S. News. 2015.
6. Gould, Thomas J. “Addiction and cognition.” Addiction science & clinical practice 5, no. 2 (2010).
7. Henriques Gregg. What Is Causing the College Student Mental Health Crisis. Psychology Today. 2014.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.