Mental Breakdown Symptoms: a Checklist

Aaarrgh! If you’re experiencing what we might call a mental breakdown (symptoms listed below), consider our advice for getting help.

mental breakdown symptoms

Mental breakdown symptoms—see 15 of them listed in our lead story—can have you feeling on the edge.

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When people are suffering from a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, they often ask themselves, “Am I having a mental breakdown?” Intense, negative feelings and any number of mental breakdown symptoms can make you feel like you’re losing control.

The truth is that, for better or worse, most people are able to tolerate the drudgery of feeling “pretty awful” for a long period of time without there being any real danger of losing control, doing something “crazy,” “going mad,” or “breaking down.” In fact, the feeling that you might be going crazy or are about to lose control is actually a common symptom of anxiety or depression. So, be assured that there are millions of people out there who, like you, feel as if their brains might just melt out of their ears one day.

That said, there are warning signs that can suggest you’re headed for a mental breakdown.

What Is a Mental Breakdown? Symptoms Tell the Story

Keep in mind that the phrase “mental breakdown” is not a medical term or official diagnosis. It has no clear-cut diagnostic criteria. There are no tests or checklists that can determine conclusively whether you’re experiencing one. The expression simply means that you’re suffering or struggling enough that you feel as if you’re getting closer and closer to a point where you cannot go on.

In extreme cases, mental breakdown symptoms might mean you’re feeling suicidal. It might be that you’re getting angrier and angrier, and perhaps afraid you might actually hurt someone. You could be losing touch with reality. You might feel that the responsibilities of daily living—getting up, getting dressed, eating, and going to work or taking care of your children or family members—are simply not possible anymore. You also might be dealing with stresses such as an illness (or an illness in a loved one) that you simply cannot face anymore. Under such circumstances, it’s time to seek help.

15 Mental Breakdown Symptoms

Here are 15 signs that you might be close to the edge:

  1. Someone has expressed concern that you’re behaving strangely or self-destructively.
  2. Your body seems to be no longer able to function properly.
  3. You can no longer face basic responsibilities, such as caring for a child or parent who depends on you.
  4. You have great difficulty getting out of bed.
  5. You’re afraid you won’t be able to control your temper and might do something destructive or dangerous or hurt someone.
  6. You feel completely without hope.
  7. You feel overwhelmed most or all of the time.
  8. You’re having negative feelings—such as loneliness, pain, or anxiety—that begin to feel unbearable.
  9. You’re increasingly concerned that people are out to get you.
  10. You’re no longer able to maintain a safe place to live or to get enough food to eat.
  11. You’re resorting more and more to drugs or alcohol just to get through the day.
  12. You’re experiencing frequent mood swings.
  13. You frequently feel restless and agitated.
  14. You’re starting to hear or see things that are not there.
  15. You’re thinking about harming yourself or someone else.

If any of the above apply to you, set up an appointment with your doctor to discuss troubling issues. You can also try talking with a trusted friend or a member of the clergy. If you have any thoughts of suicide or if you feel that you may be a danger to yourself or others, you need help immediately. Go to the emergency room of your local hospital, call 911, or call a suicide hotline such as 800-273-TALK or 800-SUICIDE.

The Breaking Point

It’s important to recognize that having mental breakdown symptoms is not a sign of weakness. The human spirit can take only so much stress, anxiety, and pressure before it falters. Everyone has his or her breaking point; often, we don’t even know what that point is unless we are tested.

For some of us, dropping out of school and losing the support of our parents can be enough to send us over the edge. Others may appear almost superhuman, taking care of children, parents, or other vulnerable people while holding down a full-time job and living with a chronic disease. The point is not to compare. If you feel like you can’t take things the way they are anymore, reach out for help.


See also this page from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, this one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and this resource from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Originally published in 2017.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Alison Palkhivala

Alison Palkhivala is an award-winning writer and journalist specializing in lifestyle, nutrition, health, and medicine. She has authored the Belvoir special report Overcoming Depression and the University Health News book … Read More

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    I do not like your style. Neither do I fall for it. PLEASE UNSUBSCRIBE ME.

  • Yeah im there and this is the first one in my life… It came on without warning and then lost 5 pounds already – slept for 4 hours in 4 days.. I’m so lost and lost everything do to this breakdown – Problem I face is everyone seems to forget about me in this time of need even those I loved. Maybe its my fault – but i did so many good things over the year for those people all I got in return was attacks or misunderstanding. My eyes were bloodshot red the other day and tears came out, but i could not feel what the emotion was – when you cry you know your sad – when your angry you know your angry- with me right now I have no clue where my emotions are. Confused state of panic and loss…. I refuse to take drugs for it and im not violent or going to hurt anyone. I just feel lost and for the last 4 days unable to find myself in this time. I can’t stand how this feels — and it does not help that im alone without the one I loved.

    Hope this goes away soon — its way too punishing on my body and mind. ?I can say without a doubt I now know what a mental breakdown is – Horrible feeling.

  • Joshua, four months ago I was where you are. This mental breakdown came without a warning, and had all the physical symptoms. I suffered a week and I realized I’m not getting better. I desperately needed to see a doctor, but fearful they will get me drugged up with medication. I met a friend whose on antidepressants and urged me to take doctors advised to get on meds. My friend advised me to start at the lowest dose. So I discussed with my doctor about how much meds to take because I don’t drink or smoke and therefore my body is very sensitive. I was prescribed Xanax at 2.5 mg which I cut in fourths. So I took 1/4 every 8 hours. Then a few weeks later, I started on buspar, an anti anxiety med with low side effects and currently taking that 2.5 mg every 12 hours. I know longer need the Xanax because the buspar is doing a great. I’ll tell you what, I have four kids who depend on me and these meds are a crutch for now until I start doing the hard work mentally in which I see a counselor every 2 weeks. I see this as a learning experience, like i need to reevaluate my life. Something is telling me to slow down, so in a way its a blessing in disguise. I hope you find peace within.

  • When i am alone I start getting angry. I even rehearse what I would say to people I have hurt and stabbing them after. or i fantasize about taking someones organs out. Ill punch walls and pillows imagining it being them. I have been doing this since I was 9yrs old I dont know why its like the anger of them hurting me comes back in my head and replays over and over. It is starting to get harder to hold it all in and I can feel myself getting angrier.

    • Hi Christina, thank you for sharing your thoughts. We hope that you’re able to reach out to a mental health professional as soon as possible so that you can address these issues. Good luck.

  • Im so stressed out. I have 2 young girls and a husband who does nothing to help me. I do everything i can to take care of the house and my kids but its never good enough for him. Im constantly being put down everyday and i suffer from migraines everyday. What does one do when they have no support from their husband? I have voiced my concerns to him and its in 1 ear and out the other. I would love to hear your ideas.

  • Hi Lily, I’m in a similar situation as yourself, except I’m a husband with a wife that does not want to understand the debilitating effects that extreme stress is having on me, both physically and mentally. So I also have nobody to talk to about my daily struggles. It got to a point in January where I was having overwhelming thoughts about committing suicide. I eventually found an online forum called that essentially saved my life. This is not only for people with suicidal issues, but that is generally how people initially find this place. There are topics that you can participate in that range from suicide to lighthearted and everything in between. It is totally free to join and participate. The best part is, there are always people there that have gone through similar situations as yourself to help 24/7. I hope this helps.

  • I’ve been battling depression since I was a teenager. I’ve managed to keep it under control as good as I can. First on Prozac for years and years till it started making me feel numb, no emotion at all. Then went to Cymbalta which I love, also helps with my lower back pain. Almost a year ago my house burned down with everything I own inside. It was the most devastating day of my life. And then the nightmare started. I’ve been moving from one relative to the other for a place to stay, a few weeks here, a few weeks there. Literally living out of plastic shopping bags. In less than 2 weeks I have to find another place to live, my options are running out. Nightmare: the insurance company has denied my claim (after almost a year has gone by) they are accusing me of lying on my application, burning my house on purpose and something else I don’t understand. Everyone tells me they are just trying to get out of paying me and/or putting it off as long as they can. Either way I’m loosing my freaking mind. I can’t stop crying, just burst out at all times of day and night, even wake myself up crying in middle of night. I’ve lost almost 20 lbs, can’t get to sleep and when I do can’t get out of bed. I want to go to sleep and stay that way until this whole thing is over. The past year has been hell and I don’t think I can go thru much more. My family try to help but don’t know how. Several times I’ve almost went to the ER because I feel so helpless, hopeless, lost and alone. I’m basically homeless and without this insurance money I will have to start over from scratch at age 55. Doctor put me on Latuda on top of my Cymbalta, only been taking for less than a week so don’t know if it’s gonna help. Can you go to ER for depression? I’m not suicidal but do feel totally hopeless and just don’t want to go on like this. Any advice would be very much appreciated.

  • Jeanette, if you are feeling hopeless you must talk to your doctor immediately. He or she can refer you to the best counseling/medication options. If the doc doesn’t help, then by all means go to the ER. Don’t suffer any longer, help is available. As for your insurance problems, you need an attorney. If money is a problem and you can’t find a lawyer who will work for a percentage of your claim. contact Legal Aid. It CAN get better!

  • Mental break started in September 2018 because of a job I was Over whelmed by the work depression and anxiety kicked in then they move me to another school make a worse by January I was having pseudo seizures five a day and they haven’t stopped now I feel like I’m underwater but the depression and anxiety . I’m seeing a talk therapist let’s hope it helps I’m at rock bottom

  • I wrote this on 12/12/18 and I still feel the same, especially today. I am in so much pain and have had multiple anxiety attacks at work already today (all before noon)

    I am tired of feeling sad
    I am tired of feeling angry
    I am tired of feeling pain
    I am tired of feeling undeserving
    I am tired of feeling like I am not living up to everyone else’s expectations
    I am tired of feeling overwhelmed
    I am tired of feeling like a burden
    I am tired of feeling pitied
    I am tired of feeling anxiety
    I am tired of feeling exhausted
    I am tired of feeling needed
    I am tired of feeling

    What do I do now?

    Even thought I have support, therapy and medication (I am also BP2 with PTSD), the feelings I am having now have me believing I am a burden to them all and I just want to be forgotten and disappear. I was placed in the hospital once for telling someone I wanted to kill myself at the same time I told her that, truthfully, it is something I would NOT do but I needed to let her know my feelings (she was my therapist) but she said she was required to report it and now I have a file with the state which will disclose that at any time. By reporting it I had police come to my house and tell me that if I hadn’t checked myself into the hospital within 1 hour they would come back & take me by force in an ambulance. (PS, I was almost 40 at the time) so I spent 3 days in a ward that still reminds me of the film “Girl, Interrupted”. I feel like I am reaching that point again and, fortunately, I see my medication doc on Monday but I don’t see my therapist until the end of April (due to schedules).
    One thing I *am* going to do ASAP is look into the link Ron included in his post ( to see if I can get some additional support while I’m (hopefully before I reach) the black periods and I don’t want to reach out to my family or, especially, my friends who really don’t get it.
    I had someone ask me the other day, immediately after a panic attack, “What’s wrong now?” Yeah…that helped….

  • Feeling like drowning, but can’t die.But wanted to.Just wanted to end this….feeling ,situation.Nothing is gonna be same again.

    • Hi Savana, if you need someone to talk to, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time by calling 1-800-273-8255. We wish you well!

    • Hi Natalie, it’s very important that you talk about your feelings with an adult that you can trust (a family member, doctor, teacher, guidance counselor, or religious leader). We wish you lots of of luck!

  • ..I’m 15 and tired of life and everything, I’m familiar with most of those symptoms. I have days where I can be fine and in a decent mood, but lately I haven’t had any good days and I just start crying and feeling upset out of no where, my mom always asked what’s wrong, she knows that I’m upset a lot and that I’ve harmed myself a few times but she doesn’t understand why I feel this way, it’s really hard for me to explain it to anyone to be honest. I want help and I feel like I need help because I want to be happy so bad and I try to ignore the feeling of sadness sometimes but it doesn’t go away. I feel like I’m going crazy and have no one to turn to. I’m tired of feeling empty and scared and upset all the time, I’ve lost my since of humor and I barley laugh or smile anymore and I don’t know what to do, I’m also scared if I try to talk about it or cry in front of people that’s “begging for attention” but I hate attention and I hate people seeing me cry, that’s why I’m in the counselors office or in the bathroom most of the time at school. I’m tired of people telling me that their “here for me” and that “it’s gonna get better”, it’s not getting better and I’m scared it never will..

  • Amber, and to other people writing here,
    you’re brave to write about your situation. that is a helpful thing to do for yourself, and I wish i could have done the same when i was feeling as hopeless and helpless and lost – ibhave grown past that now, but i was as desperate. like you Amber, i could not speak about my distress or unhappiness. i felt like if asked, i could not answer the question “what’s the matter with you?” so i never put myself in that vulnerable position. i wished i had been able instead say “this is what matters to me….” and have the relationships that would support me and celebrate life with me, instead of me feeling unworthy to ask for help or even company
    stick up for yourself, keep looking for connections that will support you, and reach out to someone somewhere, they may be feeling near breaking point, but your smile might be the light that dispells the gloom for them. two lonely people have something in common, so technically aren’t lonely anymore
    sending you love xM

  • Amber, my heart goes out to you especially, because my daughter is also 15, and I have been that age too, of course, last century. but essentially it was a scary time, for so many reasons, and while i had my mum in my life, i hardly ever told her (read never) anything important about me. i never felt comfortable, and she never asked much, i coild have been on Mars. i hope you can begin sharing with someone, don’t carry your worries alone honey, look around, there must be someone you can start to relax and talk with, I could try for now, Mel

  • Thank u so much Mel, For me it’s easier to type how I feel in a text or something like that rather than actually speaking ab it. It honestly means a lot to me that maybe at lest someone understands how I feel and can relate, i pray that I can return to my happy state of mind soon. Thank u <3

  • The same thought keeps looping through my brain–I feel weak, and I keep thinking that evolution should have eliminated me, except for the fact that I’ve been propped up for years by medications and support and doctors. I feel so unbelievably guilty that I’ve taken up resources all these years. I thought I was strong. I thought I was smart…turns out it was all artificial. I recently met a girl who worked through the death of her husband…barely ever sleeps, doesn’t take medication, and she still functions at a higher level than I do. She just makes it based on what evolution gave her. I apologize for rambling and not making sense…I just wanted to get this thought out. I’ve never met any of you, but know my love and sympathy are with you, whatever that’s worth. Thanks for this forum and thanks for reading.

  • I feel the same as a lot of people on here, I can honestly say i wish i was dead but dont feel suicidal its weird. If i wanted to kill myself there is tons of ways, i have never acted on them but every night i go to bed and pray i dont wake up in the morning,

  • Lately I’ve been going through a rough time, I completely blocked out something from part of a past conflict that completely changed my point of view. I’ve been yelling and screaming at the person only to find out its my fault. I feel like I’m going insane. I’m terrified that if I can block out something that was the LEAST of the problem how much of the real situation I’ve blocked out. I’ve also been in and out of a slump for about 3 years now.

  • I hear everyone’s pain, because I am there. Been suffering terrible anxiety and depression since my husbands death 10 yrs ago – trying to take care of everything – the last year or so it is worse – feeling exhausted all the time no matter how much sleep I get, pain everywhere, thinking negative , lost weight. Feeling doomed – I did have something like this 30 yrs ago – they put me on a drug but I don’t want to go on any meds, I do take 1/4 of a Xanax – seems to help a little – but I wish this feeling gone.

  • I am in a state in which I am dead inside already. Nothing seems to bother me anymore. I did wrong on my own and there is no light I can see .

  • Javi, I understand! Many times I have felt “dead inside.” When I lost my daughter to a drug overdose a year ago…. I no longer could function. Lost many well paying jobs because I just didn’t give a shit about rules, deadlines or anything for that matter. My mental break caused my son to move out of state because he could no longer watch me destroy my life. My husband was in the process of divorcing me. Yet…. I still didn’t care. I felt nothing. Please…. please…. please… talk to everyone about how your feeling. You doctor, your friends and family too. Even if your not suicidal; there are many online support groups- seek them out! Believe it or not… there is light! You just have to reach out of the darkness for many someone’s to help pull you back to the light. And no matter what wrong you have done… forgive yourself. People like me are praying for you to know… it’s ok to hit bottom, it’s ok to mess up your life, it’s ok to do wrong and not let it be the detriment to your sanity. I send you much love during this struggle. Hope you can feel the hugs I’m sending you each moment of your struggles and know someone out here does care, understands, and hopes you’ll fell better with each day that follows. ❤️

  • For as long as I can remember I’ve had all these symptoms and more!! I feel alone,I loved, uncared about , unrecognized like an obsolete inanimate object that people only pick up long enough to get what they want and then thrown down, to be kicked , to be talked to like an animal that somebody hates, to be treated like I’m shit ! So that’s pretty much how I feel about myself i am nothing not a person just an empty shell !! I’m numb , i cry at everything , I’m constantly thinking of killing myself the only thing that keeps me from doing it is my grandchildren!!! But I am alone , lost , scared to do some every day life things for myself , scared of succeeding scared of failing !!!! Nobody seems to care , not my brothers, sisters, not my children !!! I had one chance at happiness and God took him from me my fiance was killed 2 years ago!!!

  • I think it’s very important having others to talk to and belief in a higher power and purpose life is hard. But it’s a adventure

  • I feel as though many of you are talking about me. I have felt this way most of my life. This past year I got help with therapy and medication but still I find myself thinking it would be so nice to just not wake up in the morning. I have so many wonderful people in my life and so many reasons that I should feel happiness and joy but most of the time I don’t. For many many years I lied to myself and others that I was okay, that the fact that inside myself I did not feel how I should was nothing to worry about. I kept going on and playacting at being the person I was expected to be, the loving wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, coworker etc. Then my husband got sick and things just kept getting worse after that. I held it all together for everyone and I though I was doing pretty good at it until I couldn’t do it anymore. For 4 years I tirelessly helped my husband, children and family to keep going on day after day. Then one day I reached a point where I just could not go any further. Its been hell ever sense and most days I feel alone in a daily battle to keep myself alive.

  • My whole life is falling apart. Husband without a job. I’m in a low paying job and clearly there’s no way I’m getting a promotion or anything. I work my behind off and do extra, help colleagues that struggle. But now I’m just over it all. My anti depressants don’t feel like it’s working. I can’t sleep and I feel like nothing is worth it anymore. Saw my doctor and he just doubled my mees. Not helping. I don’t do drugs or alcohol but maybe I should. I feel totally overwhelmed by everything and feel like crying all the time. No medical aid means treatment is impossible. No way out.

  • okay hopefully someone responds. but i am a teenager. i’m in complete confusion with myself. i just buss out crying. the times that really hurt me in the past steady replay in my head and it breaks me down and when i try to understand my emotions or my thoughts , i feel like i’m going to loose my stuff. is this just a phase? what am i feeling? i feel like everything just piles on me. i feel so alone. i have nobody to talk to or explain what’s rong cause it’s so hard explaining what’s going on in my head. pls help if you understand what i’m saying

    • Hi Jasmine, thank you for you comment. Do you have a parent, teacher, doctor or other adult that you can speak with? Perhaps a social worker at your school? We cannot comment on whether your symptoms are normal or not, but it’s important to seek out help from someone you trust. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time by calling 1-800-273-8255. I hope you feel better soon!

  • Getting up everyday is hard. The day begins with a nice cry followed by bouts of hitting myself in the head.

    My emotions are all over the place. My depression or fits of anger hit like a tidal wave, and coming out of that episode just appears at the very end, right before one thinks their going to really lose it.

    I have lost my mind many times dealing with this disease. I have seen the darkest tunnels and mysterious corridors of the mind. It’s like being trapped inside yourself. Everyday you must maneuver around it’s many complexities. It always fights back because as long as your in that depressed state it thrives. I’m tired of losing to this disease.

    Recently I have gone through the longest bout of depression…8 months long. I don’t even look like the same person. My medications no longer work. I’m getting over a breakup. And he left me due to my depression, over text message. I’m having medical issues. I’ve lost all hope. I’ve found it difficult to find the hope in this. What I am experiencing has altered my mental state. I don’t know who I am anymore. My goals are a distant memory. This is the true definition of torture.

    • Hi Kat, thank you for your comment. We hope that you’re in touch with a therapist or doctor and that you’re on your way to recovering soon.

  • Hello, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. (Psalm 34:17-20) When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

    Remember in the bible his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. (Matthew 4:24) And God can heal you. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10). I would like to invite you to 1 hour with God Saturday Morning on the Prayer Line @ 6am Central Standard Time. Call the prayer line @ 712-451-1202 access code 485973.

  • My momma died unexpectedly on 7/17/19. I am not handling it at all. I cried a lot the first few days both openly and in private. I got through the funeral. The last two days I feel like I’m having a meltdown. My middle sister and I got into a verbal argument. I refuse to speak to her. She takes no fault in this. I can’t stop crying about my momma. I miss her. I wasn’t ready for her to die. My sister thinks and says I’m having a pity party. She is playing the martyr and it sickens me. I don’t think she has ever liked me and vice versa. We have tolerated each other. Like I said I can’t stop crying and I don’t know what to do. I’ve always been emotional open with my feelings. I suffer from depression anxiety diabetes and neuropathy. I am not suicidal but don’t really care if I live or die. I need help. I am inconsolable. I can’t function but I’m trying. I have fears of abandonment and death. Where do I go for help?

    • Hi Anita, my condolences to you and your family on the loss of your mother. I hope that you can connect with a grief counselor or bereavement support group in your area. You may be able to search for local resources here:

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