What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Nervous Breakdown?

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Editor’s Note: If you’re having thoughts about self-harm or are feeling suicidal, or if you’re concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Certified crisis-response professionals are available for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can provide assistance if you or someone you know is experiencing mental health distress.

While there isn’t a standard clinical definition for a nervous breakdown or a precise psychiatric

diagnosis — technically speaking, a nervous or mental breakdown isn’t a clinical term — many health experts today refer to a nervous breakdown as a "mental health crisis." By its generally accepted definition, a mental health crisis is an event in which a person has reached their mental limit and is unable to cope or function effectively in their day-to-day life. The event often occurs in response to stress or an external influence such as a divorce, unemployment or the death of a loved one.

The experience of a mental health crisis may suggest an underlying health condition, such as depression or anxiety, that requires medical treatment. However, these acute events are usually considered temporary episodes that signal the need for an individual to pause, relax, recuperate or even seek professional help.

If you believe you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, talk to your primary care doctor about your signs and symptoms, or seek help from a licensed mental health specialist.