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When it comes to mental health, everyone has a tendency to say offhanded comments about their struggles but pass it off as a joke. For instance, when you’re feeling overwhelmed by deadlines at work, you might turn to your co-worker and say, “I’m going to have a breakdown” or “I’m about to go psycho.”

When people are experiencing distress, they may reference breakdowns or mental instability without understanding what that truly means. A nervous breakdown is one thing, but a psychotic break is another. Both are serious mental health issues that need to be addressed and properly treated.

Read on to learn about the basics of psychotic breaks and nervous breakdowns. Then we’ll talk about the differences between the two and how to treat them.

What is a psychotic break?

A person’s mental health journey is never a smooth ride, even if they don’t have a mental health disorder. If your mental health dramatically declines, it can lead to your mind disconnecting from your reality, causing a “psychotic break.”

A psychotic break refers to an episode of psychosis, which is defined as a period of time when thoughts and perceptions of reality have been impacted, causing a person to have a difficulty differentiating between what’s real and what isn’t.

Symptoms or signs of a psychotic break include:

  • Paranoia or suspicion of others.
  • Trouble with logical thinking.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Lack of personal hygiene or self-care
  • Intense ideas.
  • Lack of emotions.

A psychotic break can be caused by:

  • Genetic predisposition.
  • Brain development differences.
  • Trauma.
  • Excessive stress.
  • Mental health disorders.

What is a nervous breakdown?

A nervous breakdown refers to a period of severe mental distress due to overwhelming situations that impact your psychological and emotional health. The term isn’t a formal diagnosis and isn’t often used by mental health providers. It’s usually known as a mental breakdown or mental health crisis. 

A nervous breakdown can interfere with your ability to handle your day-to-day responsibilities because the stress can feel like it’s taking over every part of your mind. 

Symptoms or signs of a nervous breakdown:

  • High levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Feeling alone.
  • Difficulty finding hope in the future.
  • Heightened irritability.
  • Insomnia or fatigue.
  • Panic attacks.

A nervous breakdown is usually triggered by life stressors, such as relationship or work problems. It can also stem from a mental health disorder.

The similarities and differences of a psychotic break vs. nervous breakdown

People often confuse a psychotic break with a nervous breakdown because they both stem from mental distress. But it’s important to know about the differences between them so that you can find the treatment best suited to your particular needs.

One of the main differences between the two is that they usually stem from different mental health disorders. While both can come from depression, psychosis can also come from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. A nervous breakdown can be caused by an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

A psychotic breakdown is a mental health emergency, as the disconnect from reality can lead to confusing and risky behavior. A nervous breakdown is a period of high mental distress that will often go away on its own.

How to treat a psychotic break vs. nervous breakdown

A psychotic break and nervous breakdown are both calls for treatment of the mental health disorders that contributed to them. An episode of psychosis can put yourself or others in danger, which means that it’s important to seek emergency care.

If your mental health provider has determined that depression is the cause behind either your psychotic break or nervous breakdown, then there are a few treatment options that you can explore, especially if your symptoms have been difficult to treat in the past.

Treatment-resistant depression means that the symptoms haven’t been reduced after at least two trials of antidepressants. Here are three options for treatment-resistant depression that may lead to a psychotic break or nervous breakdown:

  • TMS — Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive and non-medication neurostimulation therapy. It involves transmitting magnetic pulses to underactive areas of the brain. The pulses increase cell activity in the areas that are involved in mood regulation.
  • Esketamine — An offshoot of ketamine, Spravato is the brand name for esketamine, which is a nasal spray that’s meant to be taken alongside an oral antidepressant. It’s an FDA-approved medication for treatment-resistant depression that has helped many patients have reduced depression symptoms in just one month.
  • Psychotherapy — Every type of mental health disorder that may lead to a psychotic break or nervous breakdown can benefit from psychotherapy. A clinical therapist can help you determine what leads to your distress and help you can develop coping strategies for the future.

Active Path Mental Health can help you after a psychotic break or nervous breakdown

Whether you’ve experienced an episode of psychosis or a nervous breakdown, your severe mental distress proves that it’s time to take the next step in your mental health journey. That’s where we come in. Whether you’re looking for TMS, psychotherapy or esketamine, Active Path Mental Health can help you work toward a happier future. 

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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