Nervous Breakdown vs Anxiety Attacks; What's The Difference?

Nervous Breakdown vs Anxiety Attacks; What's The Difference?

I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown!

This is something you could have said to yourself when you simply can't take it anymore. 

But are you really having a nervous breakdown? or an anxiety attack?  

When people are under pressure, they all experience tension and anxiety, but it is normally at a controllable level.

So what happens when it is no longer at a controllable level? 

Anxiety Therapists in Colorado

Brooke Moraski, LPCC, NCC

Brooke Moraski, LPCC, NCC

(720) 449-4121
Joseph Anders, LPCC

Joseph Anders, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Janelle Wagenknecht, MA, LPCC, ADDC

Janelle Wagenknecht, MA, LPCC, ADDC

(720) 710-0919
Marie Whatley LPCC

Marie Whatley LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Denise Itule, LPCC

Denise Itule, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Kimberly Nefflen, LPCC

Kimberly Nefflen, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Kristen Yamaoka-Los, LPC

Kristen Yamaoka-Los, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Cassondra Chagnon, LPCC

Cassondra Chagnon, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 481-3518
Marta Schmuki, LPC

Marta Schmuki, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021
Sarah Webster, SWC

Sarah Webster, SWC

(719) 696-3439
Stephanie Kol, LPCC

Stephanie Kol, LPCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 203-7021
Emily Murphy, LPC

Emily Murphy, LPC

(719) 345-2424
Laura Brinkman, MA, LPCC

Laura Brinkman, MA, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374

What Is A Nervous Breakdown vs Anxiety Attack?

A nervous breakdown occurs when stress and feelings of concern or anxiety are present all at the same time.

This can escalate to a level that interferes and negatively affects a person's daily lifestyle.

A nervous breakdown sometimes referred to as a mental health crisis or a mental breakdown is a period of severe mental suffering.

When a person has a nervous breakdown, they are temporarily unable to function in their daily lives.

An anxiety attack is sometimes referred to as a panic attack. It is when an individual has an episode of intense fright or anxiety that can be triggered by a perceived threat. 

This episode normally lasts for 10 minutes and is accompanied by sweating, palpitations, shaking, difficulty breathing, and more. 

What Triggers A Nervous Breakdown and An Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety attacks can be triggered by underlying mental health conditions like asthma, thyroid problems, seizures, and heart problems.

A nervous breakdown can be triggered by

  • Difficulty in daily affairs due to illness
  • A sudden traumatic event, like the loss of a loved one
  • Continuous stress from work or school
  • relationship changes, such as a divorce
  • Loss of employment
  • exposure to violence
  • Suffering from recurring discrimination or prejudice
  • Financial issues,
  • Major life changes, like relocation
  • chronic medical conditions

A nervous breakdown is the result of several issues that were slowly taking a toll on one's mental health. 

It's not a short episode like an anxiety attack. 

A nervous breakdown can last for quite some time.

Sometimes a nervous breakdown is a disguised undiagnosed medical condition. 

What some people mistake as a nervous breakdown could actually be an undetected mental health problem.

Many people use the term to describe extreme stress symptoms and an inability to cope with life's obstacles because there is no universally accepted definition.

Symptoms Of A Nervous Breakdown Vs Anxiety Attack

The symptoms of a nervous breakdown differ from one person to the next. 

The type of symptoms you get can also be influenced by the underlying cause. 

You may experience physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms:

Because the word "nervous breakdown" isn't frequently used in medicine, this mental condition has been described by a wide range of symptoms that arise suddenly like

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless all of the time.
  • A sense of guilt or worthlessness
  • Tiredness or a lack of energy
  • A lack of enthusiasm for hobbies or activities
  • Suicide or self-harming ideas
  • Feeling jittery
  • Irritability
  • Clammy fingers
  • Dizziness
  • Bellyache
  • Issues breathing
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Heart palpitations 
  • sweating
  • Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares about the past traumatic experiences.
  • Unprecedented mood swings or outbursts
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia

Symptoms of an anxiety attack

  • Worry and apprehension
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Sadness
  • Feeling pressure and hurried
  • changes in heart rate
  • Tension in the head or neck
  • Headache
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Tightness in the throat and difficulty breathing
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feeling faint

Sometimes an individual who is suffering from a nervous breakdown can also have an anxiety attack.

They also tend to isolate themselves from people around them like families, friends, and colleagues

What Causes a Nervous Breakdown?

Although underlying mental health issues frequently play a role, a nervous breakdown can be precipitated by a single event that produces significant stress.

Depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder may be the underlying mental health issues (PTSD). 

Stressful situations such as divorce or trauma, can exacerbate the condition and lead to a breakdown.

Resilience (the ability to cope during times of hardship) will be lower if a person has inadequate coping skills or a lack of social support, to begin with.

A nervous breakdown can also be the result of a gradual build-up of stress, which can be caused by demands at work, in relationships, or in financial issues – divorce or unemployment are examples of such factors.

Worry, tension, and anxiety can build up over time to the point that a person is unable to cope or accomplish daily duties.

An individual can burn out when he/she experiences a great level of mental, physical, and emotional weariness. 

This can eventually lead to a mental breakdown.

For many mental health disorders, your doctor can prescribe medications and refer you to other healthcare specialists such as psychologists or psychiatrists.

They can assist you in obtaining a mental health treatment plan, which will allow you to take advantage of Medicare rebates for sessions with mental health providers.

How Do You Treat Nervous breakdown Vs Anxiety Attack?

Make an appointment with a primary care physician or a mental health professional if you or someone you care about is having a nervous breakdown or anxiety attack.

Seeing a doctor is especially important if you're in danger of harming yourself or others.

To confirm that other underlying causes aren't contributing to your symptoms, your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination and review any drugs you're currently taking.

They may then recommend you to a psychotherapist or psychiatrist for additional assessment and treatment, which may include psychotherapy or medication.

Other forms of treatments usually administered to treat a nervous breakdown or anxiety are:

  1. Talk therapy
  2. Medications
  3. Changes in lifestyle

Talk therapy

To treat your symptoms, your doctor may suggest talk therapy. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one sort of psychotherapy that is regularly employed (CBT).

CBT has been shown to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other serious mental illnesses. 

It entails identifying problematic thought patterns as well as learning coping skills to help you navigate difficult situations more effectively.


Prescription drugs may be prescribed in addition to talk therapy to treat symptoms or other recognized mental health issues. 

This could include antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.

Changes in lifestyle

Consider these tactics for managing your symptoms if you're feeling overwhelmed and on the edge of a breakdown:

Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided because they can exacerbate mental health problems and disrupt sleep.

Exercise on a regular basis can help you cope with stress and sleep better.

Physical activity has also been demonstrated to help with the symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses.

Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant in this diet. grains in their entirety legumes seeds and nuts protein that is low in fat

Create a nighttime regimen and routine that will assist you in getting a good night's sleep. 

Taking a warm bath is one example.

 electrical devices should be turned off a book is being read

Acupuncture, massage therapy, and yoga breathing exercises are examples of stress-relieving therapies.


Most people, especially those who suffer from some form of PTSD, go through moments of worry, anxiety, and hopelessness.

However, these issues can be addressed and resolved through medication, counseling, and other treatments.


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May 18th, 2024

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