5 Causes Of A Nervous Or Mental Breakdown

Sometimes, life’s many ups and downs can get difficult to cope with. And in the hardest of moments, we might experience what’s popularly known as a mental (or nervous) breakdown. This refers to a temporary, time-limited mental disorder where an otherwise functional individual is stressed, depressed, or anxious such that their mental functions are overwhelmed and unable to perform well on a day-to-day basis until the source of the disorder is resolved. Although the condition isn’t recognized by conventional psychology and as such, doesn’t have a defined list of causes, it is worth understanding and paying attention to.1

Excessive Stress And A History Of Mental Health Problems May Trigger A Breakdown

Although stress affects all of us at some point in our lives, it’s when things get unbearable that you experience a mental breakdown. This is because, under stress, the brain releases a hormone called cortisol. And depending on the intensity of the stress, the plasma levels of this hormone can increase 2–5 times more than normal, leading to a breakdown.2


A small study found that alcohol dependence, depression, schizophrenia, and drug dependence may have a role to play when it comes to the triggers of a breakdown. However, further research is required to fully back this claim.3 That said, at times, excessive stress might lead you to harbor negative thoughts making you incapable of thinking rationally. Here are a few factors that can pile on the stress.

1. Jobs Associated With Emotional Burnout

If you’ve got a difficult, emotionally draining job then mental breakdowns shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. Hectic deadlines, high expectations, and lack of exercise may cause undue physical and mental stress.4 And in situations when expectations are not met or when work is not completed, extreme stress occurs and in turn results in a mental breakdown.


In fact, post-world war I and II research found that cases of nervous breakdown were linked to lack of morale and social support as well as anxiety in the armed forces.5 So if your workplace is pushing you over the edge, talk to your manager about any suggestions you might have, take a vacation, or consider switching jobs.

2. Difficulties In A Relationship

This is a problem most of us have experienced. When a relationship runs into rough weather, it can cause immense mental stress to the people involved. Research has found that this could be a divorce, marital strains, or troubles with a partner.6 All of these events lead to a tremendous amount of emotional turmoil and stress both of which could trigger a nervous breakdown.7 If you’ve been having trouble coping with relationship problems talk to a loved one or consider therapy.


3. Financial Crisis

Financial difficulties can pack on the stress whether it’s unpaid bills, soaring debts, or EMI payments that keep piling on.8 If you’ve been having trouble keeping up with your finances, try coming up with a budget you can stick to or ask a professional for advice. If this doesn’t help, consider a few therapy sessions.

4. Struggles With Health Disorders

One study that was conducted to determine what caused Americans to experience breakdowns found that personal health was a source of stress for a lot of them. Not only do health disorders make us feel low and anxious, the medical bills can also cause our financial stress to pile up.9 10. This can worsen if you’re bed-ridden or are dependent on someone else. If you relate to this, be sure to communicate with your loved ones about your feeling of helplessness and treat yourself by buying a gift or dinner for yourself. You could also choose to take up a short course for the duration of your sickness if you can help it, so as to be productive. And if all else fails, as we’ve mentioned earlier, consider going to a therapist.


5. Academic And Peer Pressure

Whether it’s high school or college, the need to get good grades and participating in extracurricular activities without letting your social life get affected is difficult, to say the least. And with the need to overachieve comes stress along with the ever-so-common mental breakdown, especially before an exam or an important presentation. Not to mention, the fear of life after graduation can be quite the anxiety trigger. Inability to fit into a group or feeling isolated and ignored can do the same.11 Avoid expecting too much out of yourself and be kind to yourself. Talk to a counselor about your career plans and don’t be upset if things don’t go according to plan.