Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

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.

If you don’t deal with a crisis, it can lead to longer lasting mental health problems, as well as social and physical problems.

If you are in crisis:

  • talk to someone you trust
  • make sure you are safe
  • think about your strengths and the skills you have to get through this
  • seek help, from medication, counselling or support programs
  • make a plan for how you are going to manage the situation that is causing you stress
  • take care of yourself by eating healthily, getting some exercise and avoiding alcohol and drugs

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.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2019

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Work-life balance: tips for your family | Raising Children Network

A good work-life balance is good for your children and good for you. It can even help prevent burnout at work. Here’s how to achieve work-life balance.

Read more on website

Mental wellbeing for men | MensLine Australia

Visit MensLine Australia for advice on how best to promote your mental well-being. Get support and help today. You are not isolated or alone.

Read more on MensLine Australia website

Common emotions of carers | Cancer Council Victoria

It’s common for carers to experience a range of feelings about their role and responsibilities.

Read more on Cancer Council Victoria website

Emotional health and type 1 diabetes | Diabetes NSW & ACT

Your emotional health & wellbeing is important to your diabetes management. Find out more about managing your emotional wellbeing while living with diabetes.

Read more on Diabetes NSW and ACT website

Assessing support for clients at risk | SuicideLine

When dealing with a suicidal client, it is important to complete a risk assessment to determine the level of suicidal intent, plans and availability of means.

Read more on SuicideLine website

Chronic fatigue syndrome - Lab Tests Online AU

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is characterised by debilitating exhaustion and other symptoms including poor sleep, frequent headaches, muscle and joint pains.

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Getting good sleep during the COVID-19 Pandemic

good sleep during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Type 1 diabetes complications | Diabetes NSW & ACT

The complications of type 1 diabetes can be serious, but can be substantially reduced if you pay attention to your blood glucose control. Find out more

Read more on Diabetes NSW and ACT website

Mental illness & the workplace

Managers and employers have an important role in supporting workers with a mental illness

Read more on SANE Australia website

A parent's story about self-harm - ReachOut Parents

Read Rick's story about his son Carl who was self-harming.

Read more on website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo