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By Marissa Katrin Maldonado
We live in an increasingly demanding and hectic world. With so many things on our to-do lists coupled with daily stressors and frustrations, it is no wonder we might sometimes feel we are on the brink of a complete breakdown. Our coping reserves are tapped out, patience has run thin, and there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. No wonder we might feel a meltdown coming on.
Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Work demands tend to be increasing as more is expected from employees, in addition to the constant need to adapt to technology and software program changes in the workplace. Email makes trying to disconnect from work ever more challenging as well. The demands of young children, a new baby, a recent relocation, relationship issues, divorce, and financial stress are other common sources of anxiety and depression that can become paralyzing.
While most people will have periods of feeling overwhelmed or emotionally spent, there are certain signs and symptoms you should not ignore. These are indicators that intense anxiety, or the symptoms of concurrent anxiety and depression, has crossed the coping threshold into a full-blown psychological crisis. These are warning signs that should be acted on so appropriate treatment can be accessed to provide stabilization and relief.
15 Warning Signs of Impending Breakdown
A cluster of these symptoms would indicate the need for a mental health evaluation and assessment. The psychiatrist or psychotherapist will provide the immediate treatment recommendations to help stabilize the situation, as well as a long-term treatment plan. The common signs of reaching the breaking point include:
- Feeling overwhelmed most of the time. Unable to stay on task, feeling panic about not being able to finish tasks, trouble staying focused.
- Chronic sleep disturbance, insomnia, nightmares
- Exhibit symptoms of extreme anxiety, such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, trembling, lightheadedness, nausea, sweating.
- Severe mood swings, alternating extreme mania or depression
- Unable to fulfill daily responsibilities, frozen, fatigued, unable to concentrate
- Using drugs and/or alcohol more frequently to quell symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, hiding substances, stealing drugs from family or friends.
- You feel utterly hopeless, despairing, and negative. Feel as if you have no options left, no way out of current problems.
- Personal or workspace becomes cluttered, disorganized, chaotic when this is not the norm.
- Engaging in high-risk activities, impulsive behaviors, such as promiscuous or unprotected sex, driving under the influence, or gambling.
- Loss of appetite, sudden weight loss when not trying to diet.
- Struggle to take care of your personal needs, hygiene, or grooming. Stop planning or making meals, do not pay bills on time or manage finances.
- People mention that you are acting odd, or not making sense, exhibit delusions, experience auditory or visual hallucinations.
- Isolating or withdrawing from friends and family, avoiding social events, lose interest in activities usually enjoyed.
- Fear you could become violent towards others, angry outbursts, agitation, short temper.
- Becoming obsessed with death, suicide ideation, or self-harming behaviors.
If there is any indication of suicidal intentions, this should be considered a psychiatric emergency. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.
Intensive Treatment for Mental Breakdowns
If you recognize the red flag symptoms that point to a possible breakdown it is important to seek timely treatment from a mental health provider. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, this treatment could be provided by either outpatient or residential mental health programs.
Outpatient treatment: Outpatient mental health treatment is appropriate for mild to moderate symptoms and can be accessed through a private practice psychiatrist, an outpatient clinics or treatment programs, and day programs, also referred to as partial hospitalization programs.
Residential treatment: Inpatient mental health care is appropriate for moderate to severe symptoms and is provided at residential treatment centers, psychiatric residential centers, or psychiatric hospitals.
Mental health treatment will involve a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, medication, and holistic activities. An individualized treatment plan will be designed for the specific diagnosis taking into account any unique features of the disorder.
Everyone has his or her own unique ability to manage stress. Genetic make-up, personality traits, and biological factors, things that are outside our control, can dictate this response to stressors. By recognizing the symptoms of emotional distress you have the opportunity to access the techniques that provide some stress relief, which becomes a sort of stress-management protocol before symptoms escalate in intensity. These interventions might include:
- Deep breathing techniques. Slow, deliberate breathing exercises can quickly reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and stress.
- Guided imagery. Audio files or podcasts guide you through the stages of relaxation using visual imagery.
- Mindfulness training. By purposefully focusing attention on the present moment and breathing helps train the mind from racing with worries about the future or past.
- Combines specific postures, stretching, and focused breathing to help reduce stress while releasing endorphins that enhance mood.
- Acupuncture. An ancient form of Chinese medicine that uses small needles placed strategically along energy meridians on the body, opening up the blocked energy flow.
- Massage therapy. A total relaxation massage can help relieve muscle stress that is commonly experienced along with anxiety symptoms.
- Regular exercise. Getting regular exercise has tremendous mental health benefits, as it helps produce serotonin and dopamine while releasing endorphins into the bloodstream.
By incorporating these activities into your wellness management routine you will learn how to respond at the first signs of distress, potentially heading off an escalation of symptoms. Deep breathing exercises and mindfulness practices are readily accessible any time and anywhere to help manage the onset of stress.
Medication management through your mental health provider can also help manage anxiety or depression symptoms, and regular weekly therapy sessions are strongly encouraged. Together these provide symptom relief, stress management, and a support system that can help you maintain mental wellness ongoingly.
About the Author
Marissa Katrin Maldonado has been working in the behavioral healthcare industry for over 12 years. She is the founder of The Treatment Specialist, a national online resource and helpline for those seeking treatment for addiction and mental health conditions. Offering resources for a medical detox, residential treatment, and outpatient programs. Dedicated to guiding individuals to the help they seek, Marissa believes that with the right support and guidance, those struggling will have the opportunity to turn their lives around and enjoy a healthy and happy life. She is a proud mother and wife and enjoys long distance running, traveling, and music.