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Am I having a breakdown?


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Am I having a breakdown?

What with work pressures, financial strains and all the other juggling involved in just keeping family life ticking over, stress is so common in 21st century family life that it can be regarded as normal. In some cases, it can even be a positive – some of us are at our most productive when we are under a moderate amount of stress.

But what about when stress spirals out of control? Do you know how to recognise the signs of a breakdown, are you asking yourself `am I having a breakdown?’ And would you have any idea where to look for help?

Recognising the symptoms

The first thing to understand is that medically speaking, there is no such thing as ‘a nervous breakdown.’ Instead, psychiatrists use diagnostic terms such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia, to refer to a crisis in someone’s mental health. But ‘nervous breakdown’ is still a useful layman’s term, which describes what happens when someone’s mental state interferes with their ability to function properly. Put simply, if you are under stress, but you are still working, eating, sleeping and interacting with other people in the same way as you have always done, then you are not having a breakdown.

It’s when your start to see the normal patterns of your life being affected by the way that you are thinking and feeling that you need to be more concerned. There are a number of signs to look out for:

The easiest ones to spot are the physical symptoms

Tension headaches, palpitations, breathing problems, sleepless nights, loss of sex drive, and loss of appetite can all be early warning signs that stress is getting on top of you. But keep an eye on your emotional state too. Are you constantly worrying ? Do you find it hard to make decisions and choices?  Do you feel that your life is out of your control?

am i having a nervous breakdown

Are you happy?

Most importantly, ask yourself whether you are getting any pleasure out of life? It is a little known fact that depression, the most common form of mental health problem, is characterised by something called anhedonia, which means the loss of capacity to experience pleasure. If activities and experiences which used to give you pleasure no longer do so, then it may be that you are depressed.

If any of this sounds familiar, then it is time to seek help. The best place to start looking is close to home – your own G.P. On the medication side, your G.P. can prescribe anti-depressants if your mood appears to be low, and there are drugs which can help with the symptoms of anxiety, too. No-one wants to be on medication for ever, but if the symptoms you are experiencing have become so disabling that you cannot make positive changes in your life, then these drugs can normalise things for a while and give you a chance to do so.

But it’s not just about taking tablets. Most G.P. practices offer other types of support, too. Many have in-house counsellors and therapists and some also offer complementary treatments to help you reduce or cope with stress. Find out what is on offer at your local surgery, it may be that you can get the help you need there for free.

It may take time to find the solution which suits you best. Many people find that a combination of medication and other approaches is the most effective, enabling them to see what it was that caused the problem in the first place, and helping them to make the life changes that are needed to get their stress levels back under control.







About Paula Hendry

About Paula Hendry

Paula Hendry is a freelance consultant in the field of social work. She has been a social worker for twenty five years, and specialises in mental health. Paula has two children and writes in her spare time (which is virtually non-existent.)

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