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Nervous breakdown

2-minute read

Everybody experiences stress and anxiety on a daily basis, though usually at levels that are manageable. When stress and feelings of worry or anxiety build up to a level that has an impact on a person’s daily life, they may be described as having a nervous breakdown.

A nervous breakdown, also known as a mental health crisis, is a form of anxiety disorder. ‘Nervous breakdown’ is not a medical term, since it does not describe a specific condition. It’s more of a general term that is often used conversationally to describe someone who is obviously not coping with stress, worry or anxiety, and it has got out of hand.

A nervous breakdown can be triggered by a specific event that causes someone extreme stress, such as trauma or the death of a loved one. However, it can also be the product of a gradual build-up of stress, commonly arising from pressures related to work, relationships or financial difficulties - divorce or unemployment may be factors. Worry, stress and anxiety can build up over a long period of time and reach a point where a person is no longer able to cope or perform their normal daily tasks.

Where to get help

If you need help, talking to your doctor is a good place to start. If you’d like to find out more or talk to someone else, here are some organisations that can help:

  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) – call 1800 18 7263.
  • beyondblue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) – call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) – online help.
  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) – call 13 11 14 or chat online.
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) – call 1300 659 467.

Last reviewed: August 2017

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