Signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown vary from person to person but can include increased isolation and repeated absences at work; avoidance of social situations; sleeping and eating problems; and the neglect of proper hygiene, says Mayo Clinic. The term is not used medically.
The definition of a nervous breakdown also varies from culture to culture, according to Mayo Clinic. The common symptoms of dysfunction associated with a nervous breakdown could signal serious underlying medical conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders. A mental health care professional can assess individuals experiencing such symptoms to clinically diagnose and treat the patient more effectively.
While some symptoms of an impending nervous breakdown, such as shortness of breath, a sense of panic and crying for no specific reason, may resemble those of more clinically specific disorders, nervous breakdowns are often caused by prolonged and intense exposure to stress, according to Healthgrades. Symptoms often disappear if the source of stress is removed. However, the condition can become severe enough that an individual fails to fulfill basic life needs and can experience thoughts of self-harm. In other situations, the nervous breakdown is not caused by undue stress but by underlying anxiety that creates an imbalance leading to the breakdown. Certain medications may also have this effect.