Mental breakdown also referred to as nervous breakdown, is a term commonly used to describe people who experience challenging situations in life, which has caused immense stress and their inability to cope with the situation. A person feels they have little to no support as they cope with life’s demands.

However, what causes stress and its escalation to a nervous breakdown can vary significantly from person to person. 

For instance, a person who has an increased number of responsibilities and pressures at work over the years may have a nervous breakdown and not have good strategies to cope with them. Another person may have experienced a loss of a family member causing extreme stress. A breakdown can happen at any time and for any reason.

Other contributing life events may include: 

  • Academic and/or work pressure and responsibilities
  • Natural disasters such as flooding, droughts, sinkholes, and wildfires
  • COVID-19
  • A divorce or loss of children
  • Financial difficulty
  • A traumatic experience such as abuse

In contrast, a psychotic breakdown leads an individual to lose touch with reality. A breakdown can occur when a person experiences initial psychotic symptoms or the abrupt onset of psychotic symptoms after a period of remission. During a psychotic episode, a person may experience hallucinations, delusions, irregular behaviour, or disorganized speech. 

The ultimate difference is that a person experiencing a psychotic break is unaware of their surroundings and has completely lost touch with reality whereas a nervous breakdown does not create dissociation from reality; and is aware of its surroundings.

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