Mental breakdown

Synonyms: Nervous breakdown, Mental health crisis

Medical Specialties: Emergency medicine, Psychiatry

Clinical Definition

Mental breakdown is a term used to describe an acute psychiatric condition  precipitated by intense stressors. Mental breakdown is not defined by the American Psychiatric Association, but is a common euphemism used to describe a reactive psychiatric condition causing impaired concentration and normal functioning.  

In Our Own Words

A mental breakdown is a psychiatric state in which a person cannot function normally. It is often due to a severe stressor, which causes extreme anxiety, despair or depression. Although mental breakdown is not a medical term, it is used by the layperson or public to define a sudden abnormal mental state. The cause of a mental breakdown could be any type of severe stress, which causes a person to feel emotionally overwhelmed and unable to function. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Stress
  • Mental illness
Side Effects
  • Depression
  • Loss of concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to cope or function normally
Share this article
  • Mental Health Crisis Response Institute. "What is a mental health crisis?" Accessed October 2013.
  • Professional-Counseling. "Suffering from a nervous breakdown?" Accessed October 2013.
  • Halgin, Richard, Whitbourne Susan. "Abnormal Psychology: Clinical Perspectives on Psychological Disorders." McGraw-Hill 2012. Accessed October 2013.
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