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Mental breakdown

Mental breakdown

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Encyclopedia
Mental breakdown is a non-medical term used to describe an acute, time-limited phase of a specific disorder that presents primarily with features of depression
Clinical depression
Major depressive disorder is a mental disorder characterized by an all-encompassing low mood accompanied by low self-esteem, and by loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities...

 or anxiety
Anxiety disorder
Anxiety disorder is a blanket term covering several different forms of abnormal and pathological fear and anxiety. Conditions now considered anxiety disorders only came under the aegis of psychiatry at the end of the 19th century. Gelder, Mayou & Geddes explains that anxiety disorders are...

.

Definition


The terms "nervous breakdown" and "mental breakdown" have not been formally defined through a diagnostic system such as the DSM-IV or ICD-10
ICD-10
The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision is a medical classification list for the coding of diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or diseases, as maintained by the...

, and are nearly absent from current scientific literature regarding mental illness. Although "nervous breakdown" does not necessarily have a rigorous or static definition, surveys of laypersons suggest that the term refers to a specific acute time-limited reactive disorder, involving symptoms such as anxiety or depression, usually precipitated by external stressors.

Specific cases are sometimes described as a "breakdown" only after a person becomes unable to function in day-to-day life due to difficulties adapting.

Causes


Causes of such breakdowns are varied. A 1996 study found that problems with intimate relationships, such as divorce
Divorce
Divorce is the final termination of a marital union, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between the parties...

 or marital separation, contributed to 24% of nervous breakdowns. Problems at work and school accounted for 17% of cases, and financial problems for 11%. Surveys suggest that in the United States, health problems have decreased in importance as a contributor to nervous breakdowns, as these accounted for 28% of nervous breakdowns in 1957, 12% in 1976, and only 5.6% in 1996. Though in themselves, nervous breakdowns are considered a "health problem" by most professionals.

Similar disorders


Rapport, Todd, Lumley, and Fisicaro suggest that the closest DSM-IV diagnostic category to nervous breakdown is Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood (Acute)
Adjustment disorder
Adjustment disorder is a psychological response to an identifiable stressor or group of stressors that cause significant emotional or behavioral symptoms that do not meet criteria for anxiety disorder, PTSD, or acute stress disorder...

. Adjustment disorders and nervous breakdowns are both acute reactions to stress that resolve after removal of the stressor. However, DSM-IV excludes from adjustment disorders cases secondary to bereavement, which contributes to approximately 6-8% of nervous breakdowns.

Nervous breakdown may share some features of acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Posttraumaticstress disorder is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. This event may involve the threat of death to oneself or to someone else, or to one's own or someone else's physical, sexual, or psychological integrity,...

, in that these each occur in response to an external stressor, and may be marked with sleep disturbance, diminished concentration, and mood lability
Lability
Lability refers to something that is constantly undergoing change or something that is likely to undergo change.-Chemistry:The term is used to describe a relatively unstable and transient chemical species...

. However, the symptoms of nervous breakdown do not include the constellation of re-experienced trauma, dissociation, avoidance, and numbing of general responsiveness that are associated with the other two disorders, and the types of stressors linked to a nervous breakdown are generally less extreme.

Nervous breakdown may share many features of mixed anxiety-depressive disorder
Mixed anxiety-depressive disorder
Mixed anxiety-depressive disorder is a diagnostic category defining patients who suffer from both anxiety and depressive symptoms of limited and equal intensity accompanied by at least some autonomic features...

 (MADD). However, the definition of MADD suggests a chronic condition, in contrast to the acute, short-term nature of a nervous breakdown.

See also

  • Panic attack
    Panic attack
    Panic attacks are periods of intense fear or apprehension that are of sudden onset and of relatively brief duration. Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, reach a peak within 10 minutes, and subside over the next several hours...

  • Adjustment disorder
    Adjustment disorder
    Adjustment disorder is a psychological response to an identifiable stressor or group of stressors that cause significant emotional or behavioral symptoms that do not meet criteria for anxiety disorder, PTSD, or acute stress disorder...

  • Causes of mental disorders
    Causes of mental disorders
    The causes of mental disorders are complex, and interact and vary according to the particular disorder and individual. Genetics, early development, drugs, a loss of a family member, disease or injury, neurocognitive and psychological mechanisms, and life experiences, society and culture, can all...

  • Grieving
  • Mental health
    Mental health
    Mental health describes either a level of cognitive or emotional well-being or an absence of a mental disorder. From perspectives of the discipline of positive psychology or holism mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life and procure a balance between life activities and...

  • Neurasthenia
    Neurasthenia
    Neurasthenia is a psycho-pathological term first used by George Miller Beard in 1869 to denote a condition with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache, neuralgia and depressed mood...

  • Psychotic break
    Psychotic break
    A psychotic break is a term used to describe an occasion of a person experiencing an episode of acute primary psychosis, either for the first time or after a significant period of relative asymptomaticity. Several types of psychoactive drugs have been shown to correlate with psychotic breaks...

  • Sanity
    Sanity
    Sanity refers to the soundness, rationality and healthiness of the human mind, as opposed to insanity. A person is sane if they are rational...

  • Self-medication
    Self-medication
    Self-medication is a term used to describe the use of drugs or other self-soothing forms of behavior to treat untreated and often undiagnosed mental distress, stress and anxiety, including mental illnesses and/or psychological trauma...

  • Psychosis
    Psychosis
    Psychosis means abnormal condition of the mind, and is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality"...