Do people still have nervous breakdowns?

You better stop, look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown – The Rolling Stones

Growing up in the 1970s, I occasionally heard of a person, always a woman, who had a nervous breakdown. The term is no longer popular.

I have had 2 nervous breakdowns. I can’t think of a better choice of words to describe them.

The Mayo Clinic defines a nervous breakdown as a situation in which someone doesn’t function normally due to overwhelming stress. I’d say that’s minimizing it to the point of absurdity. Who functions normally when under overwhelming stress?

The Moody Mom definition: a nervous breakdown is a monumental shift in mood or behavior, caused by traumatic events, or an underlying mental illness. A person experiencing this cannot or will not function normally in any way. Symptoms can be: sleeping too much, sleeping not enough, a loss of energy or motivation, excessive crying, irritability, inability to think clearly, flu-like symptoms, not communicating with others, changes in eating, and a disregard for personal hygiene, among other things.

At least, that’s what my nervous breakdowns have been like. Both times, I couldn’t get out of bed. I did, to go to the bathroom but that was only after a couple of hours of prayer and self affirmations to give me the will to move. The desire to stay in bed was so strong, it was almost like paralysis.

I take meds daily for bipolar. During a breakdown, which lasts about a week, I forget to take them. Any sense of order or routine in my life flies out the window. I’d wake up at 2 and wonder…is it 2am or 2pm? What day is this?

Since I have bipolar, why aren’t these breakdowns considered a mood episode? My episodes are not very severe. I can go to work, smile at people all day, and feel worse than a piece of shit smeared on the sidewalk the whole time. But I’m functioning.

This recent nervous breakdown started with a panic attack. I never have those. It felt like I was dying. God help those of you who have panic attacks! And there aren’t any affective meds for that as far as I know.

On about day 5 of my breakdown I somehow drove myself to my psychiatrist’s office. I asked, isn’t there something you can give me, like a shot of antibiotics when you have an infection, that will snap me out of this? No. What should I do? Are you seeing a therapist? she asks. Uh…no. I haven’t had medical insurance in 6 months.

In my research to find a cure, all I read was the same old, same old. Seek therapy. See your psychiatrist. Get outside. Exercise. Avoid sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Talk to friends. Get plenty of sleep but not too much. Blah blah blah.

The Moody Mom’s Advice: take your meds. Talk to a therapist if you have one. Do not whine to your friends about it! If you do that too much you’re going to find yourself with very few friends. Call in sick with the flu. And then just ride it out. You will get better!

9 thoughts on “Do people still have nervous breakdowns?

  1. Thank you for sharing!
    For anyone struggling with anxiety or depression, don’t try to keep it hidden. Tell someone. It’s important to get help so you don’t fight this battle alone.


    1. I think it’s scary to seek help or tell people that you’re depressed or anxious, etc because you fear how people will react. People say “why are you depressed? What’s wrong with you?” Instead of “I’m sorry you’re struggling. Let me know how I can help”. I myself get rattled when someone tells me they have a serious disease or problem. I mean…what’s the right thing to say?? I guess “I’m sorry” works pretty well.


      1. To a person struggling with depression or anxiety, it has a way of feeling all-consuming. I’ve been there. The stigma of depression often leads to social isolation because the depressed person feels that no one would understand. I think the first thing to say that’ll help is “I’m here for you.” This phrase can go a long way between building a connection. Depression is a lonely place to be; knowing that you are not alone makes it a little bit easier to reach out. In my experience there is no perfect way to respond. I rely on God to give me what to say, when to shut up and just listen and when to pray for them.

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  2. A nervous breakdown isn’t that bad of a term. It could hold a lot of today’s diagnoses and it was mostly applied to women (that part we can leave in the past). And since it is such a broad term, you can fill it in as you see fit. I’m rambling, I sometimes would like to live in simpeler times, where things could be cristal clear. Where I could be ‘cured’ from my nervous breakdown….


    1. When I heard that term as a kid (probably from watching Dynasty) I imagined a woman running through the streets screaming, punching people in the face, lying face down on the floor sobbing hysterically. I saw the movie Valley of the Dolls, starring Patty Duke and Sharon Tate, where Hollywood women were unhappy, so their doctors prescribed them uppers and downers. Then their drug addiction would destroy their lives. Back in those days, I guess there was a lot of pressure to be “perfect”….just look at how skinny they were!

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      1. Yes it is very true about the uppers and downers. We call it here ‘powders from the Red Cross’ as they came to visit the ‘patients’. People still speak about it but in a laughing matter. I think a lot of suffering was covered by those powders and the pressure to appear ‘perfect’. Today it’s different and somewhat the same.


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