15 Mental Breakdown Symptoms: Are You on the Edge?

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.

© Erba78 | Dreamstime

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.

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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.

Mental Breakdown Symptoms: 15 to Consider

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’re really on the edge and 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.


Besides contacting a professional for help in heading off that “mental breakdown,” you can commit to reducing stress and anxiety in your life. These posts offer proven strategies for doing just that:

See also this page from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and this one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Originally published in 2017, this post is regularly updated.



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  • Just wondering, even predicting mental breakdown for Trump.

  • 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.

  • Christina

    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.

  • Chandra J.

    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 suicideforum.com 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.

  • Jeanette

    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

  • Elizabeth J.

    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 (suicideforum.com) 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.

  • Natalie

    What if you are 13 and are experiencing most things on that list.

  • Chandra J.

    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!

  • Chandra J.

    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!

  • ..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..

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I thought you might be interested in this article on https://universityhealthnews.com: 15 Mental Breakdown Symptoms: Are You on the Edge?

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