Synonyms: Mental collapse, acute stress disorder
Medical Specialties: Psychiatry
A nervous breakdown is technically not a medical term, but is frequently used to describe a feeling of overwhelming anxiety and stress, such that a patient is unable to maintain their previous normal level of functioning. It is commonly considered apart from any psychiatric diagnosis such as bipolar disorder, and individuals suffering from a breakdown are often responsive to therapy.
People having a "nervous breakdown" often describe stressor symptoms with a literal breakdown of functioning, such as feeling unable to get out of bed, shower, and feeling weighed down. The term nervous breakdown does not always mean a person has a mental illness, but it’s certainly possible.
A nervous breakdown is usually associated with stressful events. It was first used in relation with the mind and psychological symptoms in the second half of the 19th century, and was associated with symptoms related to mental and physical exhaustion, often referred to – rather poetically – as melancholia.