It will be appreciated that there are different grades of “nervous” suffering. Countless people have “bad nerves” and many of them, although distressed, continue at their work and cannot be said to suffer from nervous breakdown. Indeed while they readily admit to having “bad nerves” they would indignantly refute any suggestion of breakdown. And yet a nervous breakdown is no more than an intensification of their symptoms. Almost every symptom complained of by people with “bad nerves” will be found here, and such people will recognize themselves again and again in the patients with breakdown described. The symptoms are the same, it is but their severity that varies. The person with breakdown feels these symptoms much more intensely. Self esteem.
Where do “bad nerves” end and where does nervous breakdown begin? By nervous breakdown we mean a state in which a person’s nervous symptoms are so intense that he/she copes inadequately with his daily work or does not cope at all.
The term “nervous breakdown” has an ominous sound to the average person and is veiled in mystery and confusion. Doctors are asked if people really “break” and if so, how? We are also asked how a nervous breakdown begins and how it is caused.
The Breaking Point
Many people are tricked into breakdown. A continuous state of fear, whatever the cause, gradually stimulates the adrenalin-releasing nerves to produce a set pattern of disturbing sensations. These are well known to doctors but so little known to people generally that, when first experienced, they may bewilder and dupe their victims into becoming afraid of them. If asked to pinpoint the beginning of a nervous breakdown, I would say that it is at this moment when the sufferer becomes afraid of the alarming, strange sensations produced by continuous fear and tension and so places himself, or herself in the circle of fear-adrenalin-fear. This is the breaking point. In response to growing fear, more and more adrenalin is released and sensations, which inspire still more fear. The circle goes around and around until the sufferer becomes lost and confused. Self Esteem.
Two Types of Breakdown
Most nervously ill people who have to me for help have had either one of two different types of breakdown. The first is relatively straightforward, and its victim is mainly concerned with physical symptoms, disturbing sensations the way he/she feels. This person has minor problems only, such as an inability because of illness, to cope with his or her responsibilities. We call this kind of illness oan anxiety state, and it is the simplest form of anxiety state we know.
The second type of breakdown is begun by some overwhelming problems, sorrow, guilt, or disgrace. Continuous tension and prolonged, anxious brooding arising from these causes may not only eventually produce the physical symptoms of stress found in the first type of breakdown but may also bring certain distressing experiences, such as indecision, suggestibility, loss of confidence, feelings of unreality, feelings of personality disintegration, obsession, depression. The sufferer may finally become just as concerned with these sensations, these experiences, as with the original cause of his or her illness; indeed, he may become more concerned with them. This too, is an anxiety state but more complicated than the first one described above.
The term breakdown is unscientific and unnecessarily alarming, and the term “Anxiety state” is too “medical” for the purposes of restoring self esteem or self well being.