Nervous Breakdown

Growing up in the 60’s, I often heard that a particular individual suffered a “Nervous Breakdown”. You don’t hear the term used much any more, but I was wondering what condition these people were suffering from back then.

Any sort of mental/emotional disorder, probably. Nobody can know for sure, because 1) our diagnostic standards have changed and 2) doctor’s records are usually sealed. It certainly was a nice synonym for depression (both chronic and acute) and bipolar disorder. From what I’ve read about people who had one, I think it also was a cover-up for what we’d now call “exhaustion” as well as substance abuse.

In addition, it probably covered random acts of rage, what we might call today “going postal.”

It isn’t one condition as it is known today. It typically refers to a sudden breakdown in normal function caused by anything from depression to bipolar disorder to debilitating anxiety. Despite some claims to the contrary, it can be quite real and clinical. I am a stable bipolar person now but I completely broke down about three years ago and couldn’t do much of what a normal person could for a few months and was hospitized off and on during that time. Happily, I am completely better now.

Psychiatry was in the complete dark ages until at least the 1960’s - the early 1980’s when this term was popularized and even then the term was a corruption of several psychiatric diagnoses. The phenomena described can happen but you will also occasionally see an attention seeker claiming the same thing making it a more complicated thing to interpret. The term “nervous breakdown” isn’t used clinically at least these days so it shouldn’t be an issue for current patients.

One of my aunts had a severe “nervous breakdown” in the late '50s, following the birth of her fourth child. She didn’t even recognize her own family. They used virtually every kind of therapy on her, including shock therapy, but it still took her several years to completely recover.

Today, she’d be diagnosed with acute postpartum depression.

I have no intention of making light of any health/mental health problem someone may be/have been suffering.

But having been born in 1960 I VIVIDLY recall my mother as well as my aunts insisting they were close to having a “nervous breakdown”! It was always in response to the behavior of their children.

Like I said; I have no intention of making light of any health/mental health problem someone may be/have been suffering. But by the time I was 8 I came to the conclusion that the term “nervous breakdown” was a crock of shit and I (and my cousins) continued doing what ever it was I was doing to elicit that cliam.

To this date we have ALL survived intact (mothers, aunts, etc.)

This sounds like typical parental hyperbole to me. We still use it, (well, some of us do), but don’t use the same words. I’ve often told my kids that they are “giving me gray hairs”, or saying I’m so angry I could “kill them”.

Well, of course I’m not going to kill them! As for the gray hairs? Really no one to blame but nature. But parents say this kind of stuff a lot.

“Kids are different today,”
I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
There’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

What a drag it is getting old.

Best. Post. Ever.

My wife & I raised 3 kids all in their twenties now. I don’t think she put on the same drama show my Ma would put on for me and my siblings.

My Mas’ were pink & white capsules (Serax). Then she’d show me how her hand was shaking and say “look what you do to me. You’re going to give me a nervous breakdown. Then who’s going to cook and wash for you because Mama is in the hospital? Who? Who?” :stuck_out_tongue:

Well, considering my mom was batshit insane, I’m pretty sure I don’t put on the same drama for my kids that she did for us, either. But I’m pretty sure that a lot of parents said “You kids are gonna give me a nervous breakdown!” in the same teasing way that I threaten my kids that I’m going to sell them on eBay. I know I won’t do that, they know I won’t do that, and I know that they know. But it’s just the kind of thing I say.

As an aside, I’m very careful to never, ever, ever make my kids think that they are really and truly harming me by just being kids. With my mom, there was waaaaay too much drama, and I’m not going to repeat her mistakes. (Of course, I’ll make whole new mistakes, but that’s a different thread!)

And don’t ever say “I hope that when you grow up you have kids that behave exactly the same way you do”. Because, as Bill Cosby said, THIS CURSE WORKS!! :eek: :stuck_out_tongue:

I got told that. My counter-curse was “well, if they do, I’ll hand 'em over to Grandma to mind for an hour or two”.

That curse also works. :smiley:

Depression and/or anxiety.

The mental health history of both my parents’ families read like a Tennessee Williams play. A few members of my mom’s family had “nervous breakdowns” requiring hospitalization back in the '50s (well before my time). From what I gather, it was severe depression that eventually caused uncontrollable crying jags and a general inability to function. Mental health issues were not very well understood back then, and people were very skittish about the whole issue because you definitely didn’t want a history of “insanity” (which was rather broadly defined) in your family. It could become a dark family secret that might prevent the relatives of the afflicted person from marrying, and I believe hiding such a medical history could be grounds for an annulment.

My great-great-grandfather had a breakdown after a woman committed suicide by throwing herself in front of the streetcar he drove. He never was able to work again and had to retire to the country. This was more like post traumatic stress disorder, but they still called it a nervous breakdown. In his case, there a specific incident that triggered it, so the stigma was not as severe.

Thank You, God.

One of Dad’s colleagues had a couple of nervous breakdowns, circa the late 80’s/early 90’s. I don’t know if that was the official medical diagnosis, or if it was just a term that Dad and the other co-workers could understand to describe what I think would now be called something like “a (severe) depressive episode”. As in cbawlmer’s post, it seemed to consist of “uncontrollable crying jags and a general inability to function.”

When my uncle suffered a similar incident about five or eight years ago it was referred to as “depression” by the family, rather than a nervous breakdown. I do wonder if knowing he was being treated with anti-depressants influenced the other family members who might otherwise have called it a nervous breakdown?

I suspect one cause of nervous breakdowns is the exhaustion of having to conform to societal norms. There is much greater freedom to not conform today than in the past, resulting in a corresponding drop in breakdowns, whatever label we give them.

Could be anything from “acute psychotic episode” to “major depressive episode” to “Wernicke- Korsakoff’s Encephalophy from alcoholism” to “annoying the hell out of the rest of your family with your ecentricity to the point where they want you out of the way for a while”.

I know of one person who was committed by their family for bedwetting as a teenager, he spent more than 30 years in a psychiatric hospital and couldn’t cope outside it. I’m sure his family told everyone he had a “breakdown” or a “nervous problem”.

That wouldn’t surprise me at all.