Psychotic Break vs. Nervous Breakdown: The Differences Explained

A nervous breakdown can happen to anybody. Whether caused by extreme stress or a traumatic event, it may feel detrimental to your everyday life. Mental health issues such as psychotic breaks and nervous breakdowns can happen to anyone anytime, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and helpless. And while these two conditions may seem similar, some key differences make them unique in their own ways. Understanding the differences in symptoms between these conditions will help identify which type of mental health crisis is happening. Hopefully, it will lead to getting the appropriate care needed for recovery. So let’s dig into how a psychotic break and a nervous breakdown differ.

What Is a Psychotic Break?

The term psychotic break describes sudden behavioral changes often linked to mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Characterized by an abrupt change in mental state, someone experiencing a psychotic breakdown may experience confusion, delusions, and hallucinations. During a psychotic break, people with psychosis will display atypical behavior and thoughts outside their normal state of mind. Disorganized speech and behavior, inappropriate emotions, and paranoia are all signs of psychosis. The duration of these psychotic episodes varies. Some people may experience psychosis for days, but it can also happen for weeks to others. The severity of the condition affects the length of time it happens. If you or a loved one are experiencing a psychotic break, call 911 or a crisis hotline immediately.

What Is a Nervous Breakdown?

Meanwhile, a nervous breakdown is an episode of intense psychological distress. Accumulating overwhelming stress, severe emotional trauma, or a combination can cause it. Symptoms can differ between individuals, but they usually include feelings of panic, fear, and anxiety. It can also manifest physically as fatigue and sleeping issues. Usually, a nervous breakdown lasts longer than a psychotic breakdown, lasting anywhere from mere hours to a few weeks. Of course, the severity of the condition matters, but a person with this medical condition can usually stabilize in a few days.

Similar Factors Influencing the Two Conditions

Despite their subtle differences, a psychotic break and a nervous breakdown similarly involve intense psychological distress. Similar factors can cause a combination of stress and emotional trauma to influence these conditions. The symptoms influencing these conditions include panic, fear, and anxiety. Some physical symptoms like fatigue, sleep problems, or even gastrointestinal distress can also appear. Stressful life events can trigger either condition, such as the death of a loved one or losing a job. Poor self-care and inadequate rest can also contribute to an episode of either type of mental health crisis. Other factors that increase vulnerability to both include:
  • Underlying mental health issues
  • Chronic illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Genetic predisposition (for people with a family history of psychosis)
Both conditions may receive similar treatments from healthcare professionals. They can go through therapy and medication, although the intensity and duration of the treatment may vary according to individual mental health diagnoses.

Where the Differences Lie Between a Psychotic Break and a Nervous Breakdown

A psychotic break and a nervous breakdown are two mental health crises that can be highly distressing. They may present with similar symptoms, but subtle differences exist to identify one from the other. What underlines a psychotic break involves a significant disruption of reality. An episode of psychosis may be different for each person. But the following generally happens during an episode:
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Believing in false ideas
  • Trouble differentiating what’s real and what’s not
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are among the mental illnesses often associated with this mental health crisis. Psychotic breaks require comprehensive and intensive treatment with prescribed medications, counseling, and psychotherapy. While medications may include antipsychotics to reduce hallucinations or delusions, counseling and psychotherapy address the underlying cause and manage the symptoms. In contrast, a nervous breakdown is more of an emotional crisis characterized by intense helplessness and hopelessness. Symptoms include the following:
  • Intense stress
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Extended depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
A trigger for this mental health condition may be a significant life event (like losing a job or divorce) or long-term chronic stress. On the other hand, the treatment for nervous breakdowns relies on psychological counseling and therapy. Making a lifestyle change by doing healthy, positive activities may also help. So it’s recommended to exercise more often, get quality sleep, improve nutritional intake, and engage in social activities. Having a solid support system is also essential for both conditions. Having family members or friends who understand will provide emotional comfort during this challenging time.

NeuroSpa’s Treatment for Psychotic Breaks and Nervous Breakdown

If warning signs of a psychotic breakdown appear in you or a loved one, it’s time to get help. If you are experiencing signs of a psychotic break, it is best to call 911 or reach out to a mental health emergency hotline right away. If you are experiencing a nervous breakdown caused by depression, NeuroSpa Therapy Centers is here to help. We offer customized solutions to fit your psychological needs. A wide range of therapeutic methods are available. From cutting-edge therapies such as TMS therapy or Ketamine therapy, to more traditional treatments like talk therapy, NeuroSpa is equipped with the tools to give you the mental health care you deserve. Put your mental health first and book a free consultation with NeuroSpa. This blog post is meant to be educational in nature and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. See full disclaimer.

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