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Help! I’m Having a Nervous Breakdown

“Help! I’m having a nervous breakdown!!”

We’ve probably all have heard these words at least one point in our lives. But what does it mean?

As we noted last year, a nervous breakdown is just a general, layperson’s term for a bout of mental illness. But Benedict Carey over at The New York Times examines the history of this phrase, as new phrases have entered the popular vocabulary trying to takes its place. These new phrases include “burnout syndrome” (or just plain “burnout”) and “vital exhaustion.” I don’t think any of these will catch on than the all-inclusive “nervous breakdown,” though, because of its longevity and history (since 1900!).

What gives the “nervous breakdown” phrase such power?

8 Comments to
Help! I’m Having a Nervous Breakdown

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  1. I had one in 2000. I guess it’s different for everyone.My levels of stress,pain&emotional overload kind of “shut off”for awhile.I tried to end my life,which is definitely NOT in my normal nature.The Dr’s called it “cumulative effect”.I think my mind just said enough is enough.I don’t hide these things anymore,because holding it in was part of the problem.During that hospital stay I was diagnosed with Severe Morbid Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.I found out that even strong people have a breaking point.

  2. I think the term ‘nervous breakdown’ is popular because that is exactly what is feels like when you become overwhelmed and your mind ‘shuts down’. I think the doctors are just playing word games while trying to modernize psychological vocabulary.

  3. I think people hold in their emotions until one day they have an overload and explode……..if we all could understand that it is OK to be sad, angry, anxious, depressed, et…occasionally then maybe the psy world would not be so quick as to put a label on it and medicate so quickly which sometimes tends to add to the problems……..just my humble opinion……..

    • Totaly agree with you! I people would just stop judging others then maybe we could live in a society where it is okay to express your feelings and talk to other people about the troubles you are going through.

  4. Absolutely Faith and I think it’s great that you see that. I wish many more people saw that. We live in a society (unfortunately) that tends to focus so much on a “good picture of health” that it undermines that struggles we are all susceptible to.

    The term “nervous breakdown” is truly confusing, even for professonals sometimes. It is sort of like an umbrella term to various conditions and I often have to remind myself of that, even though I am a mental health professional! :)

    See…we’re all susceptible to error and emotional distress.

  5. I am waiting for our politically correct society to re-name the term nervous breakdown to something softer and nicer….

    • Its hard to stay sane with a hoarder, and perpetual student. i lost confidence when i counld control my childs hoarding and 15year sin college

  6. I think there are many “Professional Terms” that are vague and open to interpretation. It seems to be preferred by said professionalsmost of the time. I recently had a child that had a Febrile Seizure, years ago it was called “the fits”, no ER required…



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