Nervous Breakdown Recovery
A nervous breakdown can be a very scary experience, but with good, immediate treatment, it is possible to bounce back and make a full recovery. Also important to recovering from a nervous breakdown is making lifestyle changes, eliminating some stress from everyday life, using positive and healthy coping strategies to manage stress, practicing good self-care, and relying on social support. All of these factors together give a patient the best possible chance of recovering successfully.
Defining a Nervous Breakdown
Nervous breakdown is not an official or diagnostic mental health term, but it generally refers to a state in which a person has lost the ability to cope with the stresses in his or her life. It is a state in which that person cannot function in normal, everyday life for a period of time. A nervous breakdown may be described as a mental health crisis, and it should be followed up with professional evaluation and treatment.
The experience of a nervous breakdown may be a little bit different for each person, but it generally causes distress, feelings of isolation, difficulty concentrating and thinking, mood swings and depression, extreme anxiety, and an inability to function normally. A nervous breakdown can also cause physical symptoms like fatigue, pain, insomnia, a racing pulse, indigestion, sweating, and hot and cold flashes.
Getting Treatment after a Nervous Breakdown
It is important to be assessed by a mental health professional when going through a nervous breakdown. This is important because it can lead to treatment but also because it may lead to a diagnosis of a mental health condition. An undiagnosed mental illness may be a critical factor in causing a nervous breakdown, and getting evaluated is the best way to identify and manage any such conditions.
Many people who have suffered from nervous breakdowns benefit from short-term, intensive residential treatment. Staying in a treatment facility gives a person a break from their everyday life and a chance to relinquish responsibilities and everything that causes them stress. Residential therapy also gives a person the opportunity to put all of their focus on getting well and learning how to cope with stress in healthy ways so that a future breakdown can be avoided.
This initial treatment can be considered the foundation for recovering from a nervous breakdown. It is this intensive treatment that helps patients learn more about their own behaviors, moods, and thoughts that led to the breakdown and how they need to change those factors. Mental health professionals help patients come to these realizations during treatment, but they also give them the tools for moving forward with better ways to cope with stress.
Ongoing Care and Recovery
Residential treatment for a nervous breakdown is only the beginning of managing and practicing good mental health. The treatment phase is for the short-term, but many people who have gone through this experience benefit from ongoing care. This may look different for each individual, but for many, having ongoing, regular therapy sessions is a good way to maintain good mental health, to cope with stress, and to manage and treat any ongoing mental illnesses.
Committing to ongoing care is an important aspect of nervous breakdown recovery. Patients who get initial treatment but then refuse ongoing care or let that care slide over time are more likely to have another nervous breakdown. Without this continuous care it is too easy to go back to old ways and to avoid making the positive changes that make having a nervous breakdown less likely. Patients should discuss ongoing care plans with their therapists and doctors before leaving a treatment facility. Putting a plan into action before going back home helps a patient finalize that important commitment to making real and lasting changes.
Making Changes at Home and Practicing Self-Care
A successful recovery begins with professional treatment and ongoing mental health care, but self-care at home is also a big part of recovery. A nervous breakdown does not come from nowhere; there are stresses that build up until a person cannot cope any longer. Evaluating what caused that stress and making appropriate changes are crucial for recovery:
- Eliminate or reduce factors that cause stress. The factors that caused the stress that led to a breakdown need to be addressed for a successful recovery. It may not be possible to eliminate these things entirely—for instance, work or family responsibilities—but making some changes can reduce stress. Working fewer hours, changing jobs, allowing someone else to handle some responsibilities in the home, and other small changes can make a big impact.
- Set aside time for enjoyable activities and relaxation. Prioritizing self-care isn’t always easy, but it is essential for being able to manage stress. It is important to specifically set aside blocks of time for doing things that are enjoyable or for simply relaxing and not doing anything productive. This could be time for a hobby, for a massage, or just a nap.
- Prioritize exercise. Physical activity is a great natural stress reliever. Exercise also boosts mood by releasing endorphins, chemicals that induce a pleasant feeling. Regular exercise is a good way to manage stress and to relax while also improving physical health. Even a short walk can make a difference.
Eat well, get adequate sleep, and limit alcohol. Managing physical health in all ways makes coping with stress easier. So, in addition to exercise, it is important to eat a generally healthful diet and to get enough quality sleep every night. While many people turn to alcohol to relax, it is not a healthy coping strategy, so limit intake.
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Using Coping Strategies for Recovery and Prevention
Making lifestyle changes can reduce stress, but experiencing some stress is inevitable. What is important is to have ways of coping with that stress that are positive and healthy and that will not lead to another breakdown. Instead of getting overwhelmed by stress again, it is crucial to put healthy coping strategies to use to relax and manage the negative feelings as they begin to build. Some examples of healthy stress coping strategies include:
Try Alternative and Complementary Therapies
There is no substitute for professional mental health care, but alternative therapies can supplement this care, and for some people they provide good stress relief and aid recovery after a breakdown. Speaking to a trusted doctor or therapist about what alternative therapies to try is always a good idea, but most are low-risk. Even if they don’t work to reduce stress for an individual, these therapies are unlikely to do any harm:
- Acupuncture and acupressure. This ancient practice from Traditional Chinese Medicine uses small needles or pressure applied to specific points on the body. For many people it does provide stress relief.
- Animal therapy. Time spent with animals is known to lower stress and reduce blood pressure.
- Art or music therapy. Both of art therapy and music therapy use the creative process to help patients express themselves.
- Dance and movement therapy. Like art and music therapy, this therapy uses creativity, but also physical movement. The idea is that there is a connection between the body and mind that can be harnessed during therapy.
- Autogenic training. This is a strategy that involves concentrating on heaviness and warmth in specific parts of the body to induce relaxation.
- Biofeedback therapy. Biofeedback measures functions in the body and then trains the patient to control these functions and increase relaxation.
- Progressive relaxation. Using this strategy involves tightening and then relaxing muscles, often combined with breathing exercises or guided imagery.
The Importance of Social Support in Recovery
One of the most important and effective ways to manage stress, recover from a nervous breakdown, and prevent another crisis is to seek out and rely on more social support. Multiple studies demonstrate that having a strong social network and spending time socializing provides resiliency against stress. In recovering from a nervous breakdown, relying on a social network is crucial.
This may take several forms, but should at the least include spending time with close friends and family. Additionally, spending time in groups with co-workers, family, friends, and even acquaintances can be beneficial. Also helpful is time spent in supportive groups with other people who have had similar experiences. In-person support groups, online support groups, and group therapy sessions can all provide an important part of a social network that reduces stress and protects against its negative effects.
Recovering from a nervous breakdown takes time and patience. It requires a good foundation in professional treatment, ongoing care, lifestyle changes, social support, and a commitment to engaging in self-care and healthy coping strategies to reduce and deal with stress.