How to recover from a nervous breakdown

mental breakdown

A mental breakdown refers to an exceptional psychological situation that often arises after traumatic events or after long-term stress. It includes the full range of normal psychological reactions to certain events up to severe mental illness.

What is a nervous breakdown?

Every body reacts differently to a nervous breakdown. However, there are often fits of crying, outbursts of anger, and tremors.

The term nervous breakdown is very imprecise because it encompasses many different reactions or disorders of the nervous system that do not belong together. This is how the nervous system reacts to unexpected and traumatic events, such as B. Death of a relative, serious accident, injuries, sudden illnesses, but also on permanent stress often with an apparent collapse of the nervous system, whereby sudden tremors and crying spasms can often occur as symptoms.

However, these reactions are usually only short-term, with the symptoms disappearing after a few hours to days. However, if the symptoms of the nervous breakdown persist over the long term or if they keep recurring, there is a serious mental disorder that requires treatment.


The causes of a nervous breakdown are many. These can be short-term traumatic shock events as well as long-term psychological stress. When determining the causes, one must first be clear about the definition of a nervous breakdown. Often there is no clear distinction between acute reversible forms and chronic forms with real disease value.

It must also be said that the nervous system cannot collapse at all, it can only react. However, it reacts in the same way to extraordinary loads of any kind. An increased transmission of stimuli in the nervous system is triggered by the increased formation of stress hormones. The body reacts to emergency situations that used to be life-threatening.

As a reaction, either an escape or an attack reflex is triggered for self-defense. The body quickly activates its energy reserves, which manifests itself in palpitations, sweating, tremors, outbursts of anger or in withdrawal as a form of flight. However, if these stressful situations are chronic or if they are permanently perceived as such by the respective person, the so-called nervous breakdown becomes disease value.

Symptoms and course

Typical symptoms of a nervous breakdown:

A nervous breakdown manifests itself with sudden tremors, crying fits, racing heart, sweating, panic attacks, lack of concentration, outbursts of anger. The affected person temporarily loses control over their behavior and can also be prone to depression and states of sadness. It is often the case that the person in question has a firmly established system of values, which can be shaken severely in a time of rapid change.

In actual traumatic experiences, everyone is confronted with the symptoms mentioned above. But here, too, it is decided how the individual deals with the events. A person with high demands on himself, who is also easily vulnerable, will find it difficult to overcome the consequences of a nervous breakdown in contrast to others without psychological help and is at risk of burnout.


The diagnosis of a nervous breakdown also depends on its definition. However, since the term is not precisely defined, a person who suddenly reacts violently is usually certified as having a nervous breakdown. However, whether or not this outbreak has disease value will have to be determined by further investigations.

In doing so, one should consider two possible long-term developments in this exceptional psychological situation. Should causally as a traumatic event z. If, for example, there is an accident, a post-traumatic stress disorder may develop. The symptoms then appear again and again when that person confronts similar situations.

Another disorder, known as burnout, can develop as a result of constant stress in people with high demands on themselves or in people with inferiority complexes who are either over- or under-challenged. A permanent nervous breakdown is also known as burnout.

Treatment and therapy

The therapy depends on the severity of the nervous breakdown. If it has no disease value, the symptoms will disappear on their own after a short time. In the acute phase, however, the calming effects of valerian and hops can help. However, if the nervous breakdown becomes chronic, other psychological disorders must first be ruled out using a differential diagnosis.

If you come to the conclusion that you have a nervous breakdown, the most violent states of agitation can possibly be treated with sedatives such as diazepam. However, caution should be exercised here because the active substances from the group of benzodiazepines have a certain addictive potential. However, psychological therapy is important. Behavioral therapy, which tries to teach the patient to deal more easily with real and supposed stress, has proven itself in chronic nervous breakdowns.

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A nervous breakdown cannot always be prevented because traumatic events cannot be foreseen. Otherwise you should avoid stress, be physically active, get enough sleep and try to take a more relaxed look at certain things. In this way, the nervous breakdown based on constant stress can be prevented.


  • Masuhr K., Masuhr, F., Neumann, M .: Dual series of neurology. Thieme, Stuttgart 2013
  • Mattle, H., Mumenthaler, M .: Neurology. Thieme, Stuttgart 2013
  • Payk, T., BrĂ¼ne, M .: Checklist psychiatry and psychotherapy. Thieme, Stuttgart 2013
  • Bewermeyer, H .: Neurological differential diagnosis, Schattauer Verlag, 2011
This article has been written using the latest medical literature and sound scientific sources.
Quality assurance by: Dr. med. Nunmaker
Last updated on: December 10, 2018
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