4 Ways You Can Help Someone Having a Nervous Breakdown

When you suspect someone is having a nervous breakdown you must take it very seriously. A nervous breakdown may cause an individual to stop normal functioning, as well as an array of other side effects. It is important you understand what a nervous breakdown is, the early warning signs, and how to help someone having a nervous breakdown.

Growing up I was always envious of how well Josh balanced everything. During college he was able to hold down an internship at a great law firm and keep excellent grades in his classes. Following graduation, we both took a job at that same law firm. It was challenging for me at first, but he naturally excelled to become an outstanding young attorney and was made Partner by the time he was 30. Everything just always fell into place for Josh and he had it all—a successful career, an active social life and, of course, met and married the perfect woman. They decided to start a family, but it was when Jen became pregnant that things with Josh started to unexpectedly shift.

Josh was paranoid that a baby would change everything, and he became obsessed with crunching numbers to make sure they could financially afford their child while maintaining the lifestyle they enjoyed. Work began to pile up. Josh looked exhausted every day, and he began calling in sick and “working from home” in a very uncharacteristic manner. Colleagues asked if I knew what was going on with him, and everyone in the office thought Josh seemed depressed. When we were finally able to have an in-depth conversation, he confided in me that he felt like he was having a nervous breakdown and didn’t know what to do. He suddenly felt the pressures of work, family, and money overwhelming him. He didn’t want to stress Jen with his worries, but he also had begun to feel smothered by his own feelings and had no idea how to cope with being a rock for everyone else when he felt like everything in his life was spinning out of control. “It’s not that I’m sad or depressed,” he said. “It’s—I just can’t breathe.”

What Is a Nervous Breakdown?


A nervous breakdown, also known as a mental breakdown, is a mental health crisis that should not be taken lightly. This crisis occurs when an individual is no longer able to handle the stress or pressure. During this time a person will no longer be able to function normally and will endure copious amounts of anxiety and stress.

The cause and severity of the mental health crisis vary from person to person. Most likely there has been a build-up of stress and a lack of healthy coping mechanisms to manage the stress. Some other causes of a nervous breakdown are:

  • Death of a family member
  • A separation or divorce
  • Financial problems
  • Work-related stress
  • A physical assault
  • A recent diagnosis of illness or injury
  • An anxiety disorder

A nervous breakdown may last for a few hours or for a few weeks, the longer it lasts the worse the effects can be on a person’s well being.

How to Recognize a Nervous Breakdown?


There are numerous signs that can clue you in on a person having a nervous breakdown. Pay close attention and ask yourself these questions when wondering if someone is having a nervous breakdown.

  • Do they seem stressed?
  • Are they exhausted all the time?
  • Have they had extreme mood swings?
  • Do they seem paranoid?
  • Are they overworked?
  • Have their eating and exercise habits changed?
  • Are they anxious?
  • Do they seem depressed?
  • Have they missed important events, like school or work?

If you answered yes to any of these questions there is a high chance you or your loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis. Depending on the severity of this nervous breakdown comprehensive treatment may be the best option for treatment.

How to Help Someone During a Nervous Breakdown


When someone is experiencing a nervous breakdown it is essential to make sure help is available, as overcoming this mental health is very challenging. The main symptom of a nervous breakdown is the inability to function normally, and may include not being able to ask for help. Someone going through a nervous breakdown may have thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you feel overwhelmed in helping call for help and when in doubt call 911 for emergency assistance.

Here are some ways you can help someone you care about who is having a mental health breakdown:

  1. Create a safe and calm environment. Make sure both physically and emotionally the individual is in a safe place. Take away distractions and unnecessary things or people.
  2. Listen without judgment. A person enduring a nervous breakdown will be much more likely to listen to you if you approach them with a calm, non-judgemental attitude.
  3. Encourage treatment. Since the cause and severity of a nervous breakdown is different for each person receiving a diagnosis from a mental health professional is key to treatment. This mental health crisis will not get better on its own, it is challenging enough, so make sure they speak to a professional.
  4. Help them make lifestyle changes. Adjusting just a few things in life can really help a person cope with stress and anxiety in a healthy manner. Make sure they are practicing self-care, encourage exercise and alternative therapies like meditation and yoga.

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Why Residential Treatment Is the Best Option for Someone Having a Nervous Breakdown


The cause and duration of a nervous breakdown vary from one individual to the next so there is not one set treatment plan. You need a mental health evaluation and a treatment plan tailored to your needs and to best diagnose any potential mental health disorders such as depression and/or anxiety. Residential treatment will provide a customized treatment plan, an environment designed for recovery, family programming, 24/7 support, group and family therapy, and holistic and alternative approaches to healing. The backbone of treating a nervous breakdown is individual therapy.

Licensed therapists will help patients understand what caused this mental health crisis and work with them to develop healthy coping mechanisms as well as teach strategies and relaxation techniques to prevent future breakdowns.

I convinced Josh that he needed to sit down with Jen and talk to her about what he’s going through. Jen and I worked together to help Josh get the support and care he needed. We found a comprehensive treatment center for Josh and convinced him that a brief stay in a residential facility was the best option for him and his family. Through assessments and testing, Josh was officially diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Now he was able to solely focus on his recovery and learn how to manage stress to prevent future breakdowns. All this time I thought Josh “always had it together”—it turns out he had just been functioning and managing his anxiety without anyone knowing it was there until he reached a point when he couldn’t hide it anymore. Treatment was able to provide Josh and Jen the tools needed for coping with his anxiety, balance work and home, and provide a healthier environment for their growing family.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to lasting wellness.