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6 Signs You’re Headed for a Nervous Breakdown

If you’re stressed and experiencing these symptoms, you might be ready to snap.

When stress overwhelms you and you’re no longer able to function in your daily life, you’ve had a nervous breakdown. This term doesn’t refer to a specific mental illness or medical issue, but it does suggest that you’ve reached your limit (whether through emotional stress, physical stress, or a combination of the two).

No matter how resilient you are, there’s only so much you can endure. Look out for the following seven signs of a nervous breakdown, and seek support if they sound familiar.

1. Insomnia

When your thoughts are going round in circles and you’re exhausted by stress, it can be so hard to switch off and get restful sleep at night. However, this only makes you more tired, which in turn makes you more stressed.

Do your best to engage in a relaxing activity for at least an hour before bed, and keep electronic devices out of the bedroom. Meanwhile, note that some people battling chronic stress actually sleep too much due to becoming depressed, so any unusual sleep pattern could be a sign that you need to look at your mental health.

2. You feel numb.

Some people on the cusp of a breakdown report not feeling much of anything. You might stop caring how you look, lose interest in activities you used to enjoy, and isolate yourself from family and friends. These are all signs of depression and possibly a major mental health crisis. 

3. You can’t concentrate

In the short term, stress can boost your brainpower by releasing hormones that enhance memory storage and improve concentration. But chronic stress fries your attention span—affecting your ability to focus on work projects (bad) or your surroundings while driving (really, really bad). In extreme cases, excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol can deteriorate your memory, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. 

4. Upset Stomach.

Stomachaches are often physical signs of anxiety and stress. If you notice that you have increased pain in your stomach, constipation, gas, bloating, or diarrhea, you could be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is triggered by the immune system’s responses to stress. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of those suffering from IBS have a mental health condition, like generalized anxiety disorder or depression. If you suspect you have IBS, talk to your doctor about options for physical and emotional relief.

5. Irregular Heartbeat.

When you are having a nervous breakdown, you may feel an irregular heartbeat. You feel your heart pounding against your chest and it becomes hard to breathe. Oftentimes, you may even begin to sweat. A panic attack has similar symptoms. When you get this checked by a doctor, the symptoms will show that everything is fine. Good deep breaths, with long inhales and exhales, even stretching, can help with opening up the chest area. Anxiety and stress can mimic the symptoms of a heart problems.

6. You have no downtime

Anxiety has an accumulative effect, like water dripping into a glass – if you don’t empty it regularly, it’ll overflow, so it’s important to take time every day to relax and unwind properly. Just 20 minutes of mindful breathing exercises done throughout the day can reduce anxiety and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in just five days, according to one study. Try using a mindfulness app like Headspace or When you’re in the grip of anxiety or depression, it’s hard to accept that simply sitting calmly and breathing will make a difference. But trust me, do it for just a few minutes, several times a day, every day, and it will change the way your brain functions, and have a knock-on effect on your body’s physiology.


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