Nervous crisis: symptoms, causes and treatment

It is very likely that we have all experienced nerves or anxiety at some point. When these symptoms are of considerable intensity, we can say that we have suffered a nervous breakdown.

A nervous crisis occurs when the environmental situation exceeds the resources we have to deal with it. In this article, we will know what this type of seizure is, what are its usual symptoms (and their types), the causes and treatments that can be applied.

    Nervous crisis: what is it?

    We use the term “nervous breakdown” to refer, in a non-medical way and in everyday language, to the anxiety attack. A nervous crisis can occur both in healthy people (without any mental disorder) under very stressful conditions and in people with a certain type of mental disorder. In this second case, nervous breakdown is often one of the symptoms underlying the disorder.

    Basically a nervous breakdown it can last from a few minutes, to hours (most common), days and even weeks.

    But what exactly is a nervous breakdown? In ordinary language, we use this concept to refer to high states of anxiety and nervousness that arise when we find ourselves overwhelmed (or overwhelmed) by circumstances; in other words that is to say, our resources are insufficient to meet the demands of the environment.

    Often these requests are very stressful and lead to a number of characteristic symptoms, which we will see later.

    Environmental requirements

    Generally speaking, it can be argued that a person suffering from nervous breakdown exhibits a series of anxiety and / or nervous symptoms. All this means that its ability to meet the demands of the environment is drastically reduced, and therefore its functioning is impaired and ends up being dysfunctional or inadequate.

    The requirements of the environment in which the person is involved, which they can include professional, social, personal situations… are perceived by the individual as too demanding and impossible to manage.

    This perception can change from person to person, which is why the causes or triggers of a nervous breakdown (average demands) will never be the same for one person or another. However, they share one common element, which is their perception of uncontrollability or inability to manage.


    There are a number of characteristic symptoms of a nervous breakdown. However, it should be mentioned that these can vary considerably from one person to another, depending on their personal characteristics, the situations that trigger the crisis, the demands of the environment, etc.

    Thus, the most common symptoms of a nervous breakdown are of three types: psychological symptoms, physiological symptoms, and behavioral symptoms. While the three symptom types are related and often overlap, let’s take a look at some of the symptoms that each of these categories group together:

    1. Psychological symptoms

    Psychological symptoms refer to the person’s psyche and mental processes. These include the following:

    1.1. Feel restless

    The person with a nervous breakdown may have a feeling of constant or intermittent restlessness. She may feel nervous, tense, like “about to lose control.” This feeling is very psychological, but can end up affecting other types of symptoms, such as physiological.

    1.2. cognitive impairments

    Cognitive impairment may also occur, such as difficulty recalling memories (memory alterations), difficulty in paying attention and concentrating, slowness in decision making (Or inability to take-), etc.

    In general, and as a comment, we know that mental disorders often lead to cognitive impairment (For example, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, etc.). Cognitive impairment (eg dementia) should not be confused with pseudodementia or depressive pseudodemence.

    1.3. by irrational

    Another psychological symptom that can appear during a nervous breakdown is irrational fear, which is often disproportionate or lacks a clear trigger.

      2. Physiological symptoms

      The physiological symptoms correspond to the most bodily terrain and include physical alterations such as the following:

      2.1. tired

      Fatigue involves a strong feeling of fatigue, such as heaviness, Which slows down the development of activities of daily living. This fatigue can be caused by ongoing stress, psychological factors, or both.

      2.2. Loss of appetite

      Another physiological symptom is weight loss a nervous breakdown. This can be caused by the chronic stress the person is under or by the constant feeling of nerves they feel in their stomach.

      2.3. Sleep disorders

      Anxiety (and psychological factors in general) and sleep are closely linked; Thus, a person suffering from anxiety (or nervous breakdown) is very likely to have trouble sleeping as well, which makes it difficult for them to achieve restful and satisfying sleep.

      These alterations can result in difficulty falling asleep (onset insomnia), difficulty in maintaining it all night (maintenance insomnia) or the presence of early awakening (terminal insomnia).

        2.4. Headache

        Migraines and headaches are also common with nervous breakdowns, In connection with physical or physiological symptoms. These symptoms also appear in various anxiety disorders.

        3. Behavioral symptoms

        The behavioral symptoms of a nervous breakdown cover the most behavioral terrain of a person. Some of these symptoms result in:

        3.1. social isolation

        The person may end up becoming socially isolated, avoiding staying with friends or a partner, not seeing family members, etc. This is all usually caused by the discomfort caused by the other symptoms and fear of suffering a nervous breakdown again in social situations.

        3.2. aggressive behavior

        Sometimes an uncontrolled or exaggerated anger can appear, which results in aggressive or stimulating behaviors and which only aggravates the discomfort and tension felt by the person.

        3.3. excessive crying

        finally another characteristic behavioral symptom of a nervous breakdown is crying, Which is usually excessive (sometimes without a clear trigger) and inconsolable.

        the causes

        The causes of a nervous breakdown can vary from person to person. Usually these seizures they have a multifactorial originAnd as we have seen, they appear to be the consequence of a demanding environmental situation or environmental demands before which the person is deemed incapable of acting.

        So, the main cause of a nervous breakdown is a very stressful situation; examples are divorce situations, loss of a loved one, high workloads, work problems, financial problems, etc.

        At the biological level, there has also been talk of a genetic predisposition suffering from this type of crisis, which is added to the stressful situation, triggers a nervous breakdown. Inheritance is also likely to play an important role.

        Finally, another possible cause is an underlying mental disorder, such as anxiety disorder, psychotic disorder, depressive disorder, etc. It will be important to discern the symptoms in order to correctly diagnose nervous breakdown. On another side, capricious, suggestive and personality factors may also play a role key in its origin; for example, people with neuroses are at higher risk of developing one.


        The most appropriate treatment for a nervous breakdown is one that involves a multidisciplinary approach. Psychotropic drugs may, however, offer some short-term benefits. in the long term, the ideal will always be a complete treatment including psychotherapy.

        Psychological techniques they can use include cognitive restructuring techniques to deal with dysfunctional thoughts, relaxation and breathing techniques that decrease anxiety and physical symptoms, and psychoeducation to help the patient understand the origin and maintenance of their seizure. nervous.

        In addition, offer the patient adaptive tools and coping mechanisms in the face of stressful situations, they will also help to eliminate these symptoms.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Cavall, VE (2002). Manual for the cognitive-behavioral treatment of psychological disorders. Flight. 1 and 2. Madrid. 21st century.
        • Stekel, W. (2012). Nervous states of anxiety and their treatment. V Xerte, 23 (106), 468.

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