Emotional Breakdown VS Mental Breakdown

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November 11, 2022

Nervous, mental, and emotional breakdowns are commonly used terms referring to specific difficult periods of life. You may have heard these terms in the media, your social circles, and other interactions, but how these terms or phrases differ from each other might need to be clarified.

For today’s blog, we’ll discuss the causes and triggers of a breakdown and how to recover from it.

What Is An Emotional Breakdown?

The term ‘breakdown’ isn’t necessarily a medical term, but it helps verbalize and describe what a person might be going through. With this in mind, the symptoms of a ‘breakdown’ are very personal as people have varying indications of their breaking point. Kevin Curtis, Crisis Services Director at the University of Utah Health Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI), says it is “the point at which we feel we can no longer handle things. If we were cars, a mental breakdown is a total tire blowout that has us on the side of the road.”

causes of emotional breakdowns

3 Differences Between Emotional Breakdown And Mental Breakdown

So what is the difference between an emotional breakdown vs a mental breakdown? According to Curtis, emotional and mental breakdowns are functionally the same, but the other potentially involves more anxiety. Both can limit your ability to do anything.

    1. Causes And Underlying issues

An emotional or nervous breakdown means a breaking point when we feel too overwhelmed to go about our day-to-day activities. It is the same for a mental breakdown or mental health crisis but has underlying mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the subtle differences between a mental and emotional breakdown is the underlying issue/s that might exacerbate it.

    2. Diagnosis

In connection to the previous point, a diagnosis for an emotional and mental breakdown will differ. The stress or crisis can cause a period of a meltdown, which anyone can recover from. If there is any underlying mental illness, a different approach is due.

    3. Length And Frequency

Most people will experience very stressful situations in their life. Some may even experience a mental health crisis. However, some people recover from it while others don’t. Some develop stress-related disorders, which can spiral into frequent mental breakdowns if not addressed properly.

emotional breakdown triggers

What Are The Causes Of Emotional Breakdowns?

People under tremendous stress may report having an emotional or mental breakdown. These are situations we don’t feel we can control or manage and are caused by various external factors. As described above, this is when we feel we need to stop and be ‘on the side of the road.’ In the next section, we’ll list some common triggers or causes of emotional breakdowns.

5 Triggers Of Emotional Breakdowns

We all respond differently to various types of stress, but there are risk factors and triggers that can contribute to the development of an emotional meltdown. Below are some situations that can contribute to developing a breakdown.

  1. Exposure to traumatic events like assault, abuse, violence, accidents, or rescue work
  2. Medical illnesses and psychological disorders
  3. Socio-economic and sociopolitical experiences like discrimination, homelessness, or poverty
  4. Major life changes like parenthood, moving residency, or the death of someone close
  5. Other issues like language barriers, lack of independence, or limited mobility

Compounded stressors like lack of sleep and persistent stress at school or work can also trigger emotional breakdowns. These triggers may also apply to children and adolescents. Other risks or triggers for them can be experiencing temporary living arrangements, loss of personal property, parental unemployment, or socioeconomic loss.

how to do you recover from emotional breakdowns

10 Signs Of An Emotional Breakdown

To reiterate, breaking points are uniquely personal experiences, and each individual will have their own specific set of signs and symptoms. Generally, these are the things to look for if you think you or a loved one is headed toward a possible breakdown.

  1. Emotional bursts like explosive anger or crying spells
  2. Difficulty with concentration or getting distracted easily
  3. Feelings of guilt, helplessness, or hopelessness
  4. Self-isolating behaviors such as avoiding family and friends
  5. Avoidant or withdrawn demeanor, such as losing interest in daily activities or hobbies
  6. Problematic relationship with food (binge eating or not eating at all)
  7. Disordered sleep patterns (lack of sleep or oversleeping)
  8. Physical distress symptoms such as headaches or stomach pains
  9. General malaise, fatigue, or soreness
  10. Other manifestations like lack of proper personal hygiene, disregard for responsibilities, or mental illness-related symptoms like anxiety and depression

For teens and younger children, these emotional breakdown signs can manifest as:

  1. Withdrawing from social activities like friends and playgroups
  2. Competing more for parent’s and teachers’ attention
  3. Unwillingness to leave home
  4. Loss of interest in schoolwork and extracurricular activities
  5. Aggressive behavior and conflict with peers and parents
  6. Resisting authority figures like parents or school teachers
  7. Having difficulty concentrating
  8. Experimentation with alcohol and other substances

emotional breakdown vs mental breakdown

Recovering From Emotional Breakdowns

With all these said, it is still essential to check with your doctor or trusted health professional to get a proper assessment. This will help evaluate your case and provide better treatment options that fit your needs. So how do you recover from emotional breakdowns? Thanks to research and modern medicine, many evidence-based services are available to help care for your mental health.

    1. Medications

If deemed necessary or prescribed by your health professional, medications can help manage and regulate emotions, sleep, energy levels, and more. Getting the right assessment for your mental health will help you and your doctor get the right prescription medicines to address your symptoms.

    2. Psychotherapy And Counseling

Psychotherapy or talk therapy and counseling are services in which mental health professionals apply evidence-based procedures to help people develop healthier and more effective coping methods. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Motivational Interviewing are some approaches to help a patient identify and change negative or faulty patterns of thinking and emotional responses and regulate emotions.

    3. Alternative Treatments

Apart from medicine and counseling, other treatments are also available to help regulate your stress or mental health disorder symptoms. Mindfulness, art therapy, and exercise are some of the ways you can recover from a breakdown. Another way is through TMS or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, a psychiatric breakthrough in treating depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, and other mental health conditions by using painless high-frequency magnetic pulses to specific target areas of the brain.

mental breakdown

If you are interested in getting the right treatment for your or a loved one’s emotional distress, we at Roots TMS are here to help. We offer cutting-edge treatments like TMS while providing our patients with the highest level of safety and support. Our treatment team is here to help you and guide you on your journey to recovery and wellness. Take the next step with us and visit us at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102, Long Beach, CA 90807, or call (562) 268 – 5813 for immediate assistance.

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