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.
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Last reviewed: August 2017