What is nervous breakdown? A nervous breakdown refers to an acute attack of anxiety that disrupts your daily life. Nervous breakdowns are part of a family of mental disorders known as anxiety disorders. Nervous breakdowns can happen when you are experiencing sudden, extreme, or prolonged stress. When a nervous breakdown happens, you may feel like you lose control of your feelings and give in to stress, anxiety, or worry. Symptoms of a nervous breakdown include feelings of worry, nervousness, fear, anxiety, or stress. They can also include sweating, crying, fast thinking, muscle tension, trembling, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, irritability, and insomnia. Unlike panic attacks, which can happen suddenly and without apparent reason, nervous breakdowns are usually related to some sort of stress. The cause of a nervous breakdown is usually an excessive stress response by the body. They can also result from a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters, substances that control brain and nerve signaling. Nervous breakdowns can happen to anyone, but are more likely if you have a personal history of anxiety disorders or if you are experiencing a period of high stress in your life. Treatment for nervous breakdowns may be as simple as modifying your lifestyle to include more sleep and relaxation. Therapy, such as talk therapy, may also be helpful when confronting stressful periods of your life or stressful memories. In some cases, medications may be required to help you cope with your anxiety. With the use of therapy and medications, nervous breakdowns can usually be avoided or managed. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as thoughts of self-harm or suicide, inability to care for your basic needs, or thoughts of harming others. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for an anxiety disorder and symptoms persist or worsen.