What exactly is a nervous breakdown?
“Nervous breakdown” isn’t an actual medical term or a mental illness, but it could indicate a serious health problem like anxiety or depression. (Here are some more warning signs of depression.) The Mayo Clinic defines a nervous breakdown, or mental/emotional breakdown, as a situation in which someone cannot function normally because of overwhelming stress. There are physical, mental, and emotional warning signs for these episodes, but they may not be as obvious as you might think. Pay attention to the following nervous breakdown signs, especially if you have more than one and they last more than just a few days. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms so you can get the right kind of help to tackle your extreme stress and start feeling better.
You can’t concentrate
In the short term, stress can boost your brainpower by releasing hormones that enhance memory storage and improve concentration. But chronic stress fries your attention span—affecting your ability to focus on work projects (bad) or your surroundings while driving (really, really bad). In extreme cases, excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol can deteriorate your memory, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Here are some more signs you're more stressed than you realize.
You can’t stop eating
Stress causes the brain to release hormones, including adrenaline, which energizes your muscles for a “fight or flight” response. Once the adrenaline wears off, cortisol tells the body to replenish its lost energy stores with food. The problem is, when you’re stressed for reasons that don’t involve crazy levels of physical activity (say, running from a saber-toothed tiger), you’re biologically wired to eat when you don’t really need to. High-fat and high-sugar comfort foods increase pleasure chemicals in the brain to trick you into temporarily feeling better. (That’s why you crave a pint of ice cream after a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Here's all of your junk food cravings, explained.) And you’re not alone. An American Psychological Association survey found that among 3,000 adults, 40 percent deal with stress through emotional eating. These quick tips will help you put a stop to this habit.
Your stomach is acting angry
Stomach aches and cramps are often physical manifestations of stress and anxiety. Try using these natural home remedies to soothe your upset stomach. But if you notice a cluster of symptoms that includes abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, gas, and diarrhea, you could have irritable bowel syndrome, which research suggests is linked with, but not solely caused by, anxiety. IBS could be triggered by the immune system’s response to stress, though researchers are still studying this. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of those suffering from IBS have a mental health condition, like generalized anxiety disorder or depression. If you suspect you have IBS, talk to your doctor about options for physical and emotional relief. Plus, here are some trusted home remedies for IBS.
You stop caring about how you look
You spill coffee on your shirt on your way to work and don’t bother to blot the stain out. Or you make one of these other outfit mistakes that make you look messy. You may think you’re just feeling lazy, but a “meh” attitude that doesn't go away could spell onset of a more serious problem, such as an emotional breakdown. Stress taxes the mind and body, draining your energy levels. This fatigue is often accompanied by apathy. As it worsens, you experience a loss of happiness or lack of motivation for activities you used to enjoy, like getting dressed up for work. Doctors also suggest that keeping up personal appearance may seem too overwhelming for people with mental health problems. Here are some more reasons you could be tired all the time.
You start slouching
In a 2012 study from San Francisco State University, 110 students were asked to walk down a hallway with a slouched back, and then skip down the hallway. The entire group agreed that slouching drained their energy while skipping increased it. Students who were generally more depressed felt these feelings worsen when they slouched. Poor posture may be a sign of a depressed mood; pay attention to your natural sitting state at work. Intentionally trying to sit up straighter may influence your outlook, keep you from feeling blue, and even help fend off an emotional breakdown. Here are some easy "cheats" that can help you attain good posture.
Your nose goes into overdrive
If your normally spotless home starts smelling fishy or acidic, it may be time to tune into your stress level. When test subjects at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were exposed to disturbing material, such as pictures or texts about car crashes and war, their brains mistook neutral smells for foul ones. As their anxiety increased, so did the intensity of the odor. Researchers concluded that bad odors could also increase anxiety, throwing the subjects into a cycle of distress. Eliminate those bad-smelling stressors from your home with these homemade air fresheners.
You’re convinced something bad is going to happen
Constantly worried about something—but don’t exactly know what? Overwhelming stress can blow normal worries out of proportion, triggering an emotional breakdown. Extreme paranoia could also be a symptom of an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, especially if your fears disrupt your work and social life. (This is the difference between everyday stress and anxiety disorder.) These natural remedies may help relieve anxiety, but it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to see whether he or she recommends medication or other treatments to help you feel better.