Do You Know What A “Nervous Breakdown” Is?

wendy pastoriusA lot of people have probably heard the term “nervous breakdown.” The term is used often in a mainstream manner. The term is also used to describe a psychotic break or loss of touch with reality following a stressful or traumatic event. Not only are adults susceptible but also children and adolescents.

Despite its common use in daily life, a nervous breakdown is a very serious occurrence and is used in society to describe a variety of mental illnesses ranging from bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, etc. The term was used more often in the past to describe an inability to function normally in daily life. A variety of signs such as the following are referred to as potential problems leading to a nervous breakdown:

  1. Depressed mood
  2. anxiety
  3. poor sleep patterns (sleeping too much or not enough)
  4. poor eating patterns (eating too much or not enough)
  5. irritability
  6. low tolerance level
  7. substance use
  8. reckless behavior
  9. weight changes
  10. physical symptoms (nausea, headaches, back pain, etc)

According to Discover Health (2013), during the Middle Ages a nervous breakdown was referred to as melancholia. During the early 1900s, it was known as neurasthenia and between the 1930s and 1970, it was known as a nervous breakdown. The term is no longer used today to refer to mental illness.

All of the above signs including a host of other symptoms can signal a mental health concern.

If you hear the term “nervous breakdown,” just remember that the term is outdated and used to refer to a variety of mental health symptoms.If your loved one tells you they experienced a nervous breakdown, you should probably ask for details. A nervous breakdown could be something as serious as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

I wish you all the best


Discover. (2013). What is a nervous breakdown? Discovery Fit & HealthRetrieved May 22, 2013, from

Photo Credit: Wendy Pastorius