Updated: Apr 21
WHAT IS A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN?
Many misconceptions surround the term “nervous breakdown.” Is it a medical term? Does it have any clinical significance? And finally, what does it really mean?
"Nervous breakdown was a term used decades ago to describe any number of feelings of being extremely overwhelmed with symptoms ranging from depression to anxiety to psychosis such that behaviorally your functioning was seriously impaired." Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz
It can include:
A point of acute distress that affects our ability to function or meet daily responsibilities
A mix of anxiety and depression brought on by stress, time-limited, usually as a response to external circumstances;
Can be referring to a range of conditions from depression to complete psychosis, or break with reality, including hallucinations and delusions;
Can develop over time, as an accumulation of stressors, or as a result of an acute crisis
Commonly used to describe great psychological pain, an impending clash between external forces and internal capacities.
The term "nervous breakdown" gained popularity in the early 20th century to describe a major personal crisis of almost any kind, however, according to Dr. Saltz it is not a medical term. As mental health became better understood and less stigmatised, the general population’s exposure and adoption of more specific terms (depression, anxiety, panic attack, etc.) became more commonplace and we find nowadays a reduced tendency, mainly in the medical world, to lump specific disorders into the term 'nervous breakdown'.
It is important to use proper and specific terminology so that we reduce the stigma of mental health issues and get into the habit of talking about these disorders openly, honestly, and objectively. Dr. Katie Davis says. “Now, when we talk about depression, we can label the disorder itself, and we can describe the specific symptoms, like insomnia, suicidal thoughts, loss of energy, and sleep problems.”
How the nervous system is affected when experiencing mental health disorders and what are the consequences for our muscles and tissues will be explained in the next article.
Bowen treatments can help managing stress levels that induce feelings of anxiety, panic attack, etc., by working on the nervous system, activating the 'rest and repair' response and by calming sympathetic activation ('fight or flight') of the body tissues. It can also induce a shift from depressed and dissociated states by restoring regulation in the nervous system from dorsal vagal state ('freeze') to ventral vagal state ('social engagement' state).