What Are the First Signs of a Nervous Breakdown?

At one time or another, everyone experiences mild anxiety, particularly during uncomfortable situations like job interviews or upcoming exams. 

However, for some people, anxiety can become so severe that it leads to a nervous breakdown. This debilitating condition can make a person feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with daily life.

A nervous breakdown is not the same as depression, but it can lead to depression if left untreated. So, read on to know the signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown, allowing you to help someone before they reach a mental health crisis.

What is a Nervous Breakdown?

A nervous breakdown is a period of intense mental distress during which a person may feel hopeless and as if life has no meaning. It can be caused by accumulated stress or one major event, such as the death of a loved one. 

Symptoms vary and can include feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and fearfulness.

Moreover, a nervous breakdown differs from depression, as the latter is a mental illness causing long-term symptoms. 

On the other hand, a nervous breakdown is typically triggered by an event or situation and does not last as long. However, if not addressed, it can lead to long-term mental health issues.

Causes of Nervous Breakdowns

Typical causes of nervous breakdowns include:


Stress is a common breakdown warning sign caused by various factors like work-related pressures, family or relationship problems, financial difficulties, and traumatic events. 

If stress becomes unmanageable and overwhelms an individual’s ability to keep up with daily life, it can lead to a breakdown.


Traumatic events, such as the death of a loved one or an accident, can cause a nervous breakdown. 

Trauma may trigger feelings of vulnerability and helplessness, leading to intense emotions and irrational thoughts. It can also lead to the following physical symptoms that lead to feelings of being overwhelmed:

  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Digestive problems
  • Extreme fatigue

Mental Illness

Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety can be particularly debilitating and lead to a breakdown if not adequately managed. 

Other mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), result in a nervous breakdown if left untreated or inadequately treated.

Common Signs and Symptoms

Here’s how to tell if you’re having a nervous breakdown:

Physical Symptoms

  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Racing heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling
  • Sweating profusely
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension

These physical symptoms are often accompanied by changes in mood and behavior. Moreover, you may not recognize them as signs of a nervous breakdown at first, as they can be mistaken for other conditions, such as depression.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating

Becoming aware that these emotional symptoms are signs of a potential breakdown can be crucial in seeking help and preventing further psychological distress. 

You can practice self-care by getting adequate rest, engaging in positive activities, and reaching out to a mental health professional.

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Extreme restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Frustration
  • Reckless behaviors

When to Seek Help

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms outlined above, it is important to seek professional help to fight depression or other serious consequences. 

Early intervention is critical in managing the condition and getting back to your everyday life as quickly as possible. 

The first sign of a potential breakdown is usually an increase in stress levels, which can manifest differently depending on the individual. You should also seek help if you notice:

  • You are having difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks
  • You feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with everyday life
  • Your emotions are out of control, such as feeling anxious or depressed for no reason and experiencing sudden mood changes
  • You have physical symptoms that cannot be explained, such as headaches, chest pains, rapid heart rate, and digestive issues
  • Your behavior has changed drastically, for example, you may be isolating yourself from friends and family or engaging in risky behaviors. 
  • You have become increasingly paranoid and suspicious of those around you 
  • You are having difficulty sleeping or eating normally

These signs can be indicators of a nervous breakdown and should not be ignored. Professional help is the best way to manage the condition and get back on track.

How to Find Help

Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or doctor. They can help you process your feelings and develop a plan for getting professional help if needed. 

Your primary care doctor can provide referrals to mental health professionals who specialize in treating nervous breakdowns.

When researching mental health support, look for a team specializing in nervous breakdowns, trauma, depression, PTSD, and anxiety. When researching mental health support, you should seek a team specializing in nervous breakdowns, trauma, depression, PTSD, and anxiety. There are also depression treatment centers like Kinder in the Keys, dedicated to empowering women suffering from depression.

Seek Support at Kinder in the Keys, a Women-Only Mental Health Center

Kinder in the Keys is a women-only mental health center that offers customized, holistic care for those going through challenging times. Their team of professionals is dedicated to providing person-centered counseling and support specifically tailored to the unique needs of women facing mental health challenges.

Don’t wait to take the first step towards a healthier, happier life. Reach out to Kinder in the Keys today and embark on your journey to recovery. Visit their website or call their support team to learn more about their programs and services designed to empower women and promote mental health.


Author Bio

Dr. Laura Tanzini, DrPh, MA, MFT

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a highly educated and accomplished professional with a background in biology and psychology. She received a BS in Biology from UC Riverside, an MA in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute, and a Doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Lifestyle Medicine from Loma Linda University.

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a Board Certified Professional Counselor, Integrative Medicine Clinician, and PTSD Clinician. She has worked in multiple medical hospitals, mental health institutions, and inpatient eating disorder clinics. Also, Dr. Tanzini has written scholarly papers and spoken on various topics related to nutrition, stress, menopause, obesity, depression, anxiety, and human development.