Emotional Breakdowns – What is Really Happening?


People often say they’re having a breakdown. The Rolling Stones even had a transatlantic hit about a girl whose 19th Nervous Breakdown was imminent, and in times of acute stress, pressure, or both, it can feel that way. In the 21st Century, that term is thankfully outmoded and unacceptable, but the human stress response has not correspondingly evolved beyond the state that gave rise to the term.

Most of the time, we can forge on, dust ourselves off and prepare for the next “crisis”, but in some cases, an emotional breakdown is a very real and much more serious affair.

Physical and psychological symptoms may present as:

  • panic attacks
  • difficulty breathing
  • hallucinations
  • excessive fear
  • paranoia
  • extreme mood swings
  • unexplained outbursts
  • detachment from reality (and self)

People exhibiting signs of emotional suffering need support to help them return to a more balanced state and function normally in day-to-day life without a sense of crippling overwhelm.


What Are the Signs?

 In Western cultures, some early indicators may be:

  • increased absenteeism from work or other appointments
  • lack of attention to personal hygiene
  • disturbed sleep and eating patterns
  • trembling or shaking
  • muscle tension
  • gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms
  • dry mouth
  • lack of focus or recall
  • unexplained aches and pain

Some people might comfort eat, while weight will seem to fall off others as they are unable to eat due to stress and worry, and at the more extreme end of clinical markers, people can experience suicidal ideation.


What is Really Happening?

This kind of response often indicates an underlying and often undiagnosed co-morbidity with other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD, with signs varying from person to person and many things potentially being at the root of an episode. Relationship breakdowns, especially in the young, are “one of the greatest harms” that can occur for most humans, with the concept of “Love Trauma Syndrome” being introduced by Richard B. Rosse in 1999.[1]

Most of us have experienced the feeling of having a broken heart. We have witnessed the phenomenon in others, with each person experiencing and exhibiting symptoms in differing ways and for varying durations. This is just part of the natural process of healing and the human condition, but in some, what has come to be the standard practice of processing these emotions becomes maladapted and can go on for what is considered to be an excessive time period, spilling over onto the unhealthy end of the scale for the sufferer.

Things can become so bad that standard treatment methods like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are rendered ineffective, and more complex and multi-disciplinary treatment protocols are required. As with many emotional and mental disorders, the root cause of self-regulatory behaviour can be found in childhood or adolescence, driving automatic and unhelpful thought responses and patterns such as perfectionism throughout life.


The Cult of Personality

 “Personality has the power to uplift, the power to depress, the power to curse, and power to bless.”

 – Paul Harris

Studies have shown a correlation between personality type and attachment styles and a higher likelihood of depression and emotional breakdown.[2] Often, those with a more robust concept of self who have been on the receiving end of parental and other support network-derived positive affirmation are predisposed to having a stronger personal identity and are less dependent on others for their own sense of security and happiness.

Perfectionism also plays a role in more than its fair share of mental health issues and can lead to burnout and other forms of emotional and physical breakdown. A study undertaken on athletes showed that multiple disciplinary athletes were less likely to exhibit stress and burnout than those who specialised or who were effectively fixated on one particular activity, which can become obsessional in and of itself.[3] Those with perfectionist personalities can obsess over details and never feel a sense of satisfaction or a job well done, which can compound over time, leading to a catalogue of unhelpful emotional responses, including breakdown.


Emotional Rescue

Understanding that the prolonged habits and behaviours which led to the breakdown in healthy functioning is the key to producing meaningful and lasting results in treatment or, to quote the Rolling Stones again, emotional rescue is paramount.

The simplest explanation is that a “breakdown” is the culmination of an inability to deal with and clear the trauma held by the body, particularly the parasympathetic nervous system, as a response to any or all of the underlying conditions mentioned earlier. These unfinished stress cycles need to find completion with the help of new generation psychotherapeutic treatments informed by neuroscience and developed in America.

This ground-breaking treatment will not re-trigger traumatic events and can help to create a healthy internal voice in the sufferer’s mind to enable them to move forward and break any unhealthy cycles they are stuck in.

If you have a client, or know of someone who is struggling to heal from psychological trauma, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential program and out-patient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).



[1] Mouchan, Razieh et al. “The Effectiveness Of Schema Therapy On Reducing Symptoms Of Emotional Breakdown”. 2016, Accessed 21 June 2021.

[2] Moradtalab, Shahnaz, and Asghar Jafari. “Prediction Of Depression In Students With Emotional Breakdown Based On Attachment Styles And Self-Concept”. International Academic Journal Of Humanities, 2014, Accessed 21 June 2021.

[3] Garinger, Lindsay M. et al. “The Effect Of Perceived Stress And Specialization On The Relationship Between Perfectionism And Burnout In Collegiate Athletes”. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, vol 31, no. 6, 2018, pp. 714-727. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/10615806.2018.1521514. Accessed 21 June 2021.