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What Does a Mental Breakdown Look Like?

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Suffering from a mental breakdown is a serious occurrence that could happen to anyone.

Suffering from a mental breakdown is a serious occurrence that could happen to anyone.

If I hadn't suffered from one myself recently, I never would've fully understood what a mental breakdown looks and feels like. I'm not sure anyone who hasn't experienced one can truly understand a mental breakdown, but we can at least try to spread awareness. That is what I am going to do for you within this article — tell you exactly what a mental breakdown looks like from beginning to end.

To start things off, I would like to discuss the warning signs of an imminent mental breakdown that tend to be brushed off by our perception of daily life.

What Are the Warning Signs of a Mental Breakdown?

Though it can feel like there was no way to see someone's mental breakdown coming, there are usually some pretty clear warning signs that someone is in imminent danger of suffering a mental breakdown. The warning signs and their severity differ from person to person, but there are some readily observable commonalities between most sufferers of mental breakdowns.

These readily observable warning signs are as follows:

  • Drastic changes in outward appearance, such as sunken or tired eyes, change in body language, and flagrantly different choice in clothing styles
  • Mood swings ranging from extremely happy to extremely sad, and often switching within a short timeframe from one another with no outwardly discernable trigger
  • Extreme behavior such as recklessness, anger, depression, social isolation, etc.
  • Increase in self-harm behavior ranging from deleting social media accounts to physical injury
  • Self-sabotaging behavior, such as pushing away individuals who express concern or worry, or ceasing/refusing to seek medical treatment

Though these are only a few warning signs, these are the ones you can keep an eye out for within yourself and others. If you feel like someone you know is exhibiting the signs of an imminent mental breakdown, I will offer you some resources to address it appropriately later on in this article.

More times than not, we find ourselves saying, "If only I would've known sooner, I would've helped them," because it is extremely difficult to see a mental breakdown coming. Take mine for example, it took four years of buildup for me to finally reach the point of fully breaking down.

Reaching the point of my mental breakdown felt like four years of continuous falling.

Reaching the point of my mental breakdown felt like four years of continuous falling.

What Breaking Down Mentally Looked Like for Me

My long journey to rock bottom — mental breakdown — lasted four years, and it began with me quitting smoking the day my son was born. I was so excited and proud to be a parent that I cut cigarettes out of my life cold turkey, turned over a new leaf, and started being the man I felt I needed to be for my son. Six months later I would tell my ex girlfriend that, "It's a strange feeling being able to feel your mind slipping away from you."

Neither of us could've known that this was a cry for help, but it was one of the first signs that I was well on my way to a severe mental breakdown. The next sign was me becoming more and more irritable, having less good days in between the bad, and just generally disconnecting from people around me. Even when there was no good reason for it, I wanted to be in utter isolation or everyone would feel my wrath.

"You should go see a psychiatrist," is what everyone would tell me. However, I didn't see there being anything wrong with me. I wrote all of the bad feelings off as stress, irritation, and general feelings that come with being alive.

Every day that passed I could feel my mind slipping a bit more, a physical feeling of losing myself to what felt like an evil darkness washing over my brain. It became so bad that in the last eight months from the time I'm writing this, I began to forget entire conversations and actions I had taken just after having them. Then one month ago was the day my mental breakdown finally hit its peak.

It didn't matter to me what I destroyed, I destroyed everything I could get my hands on.

It didn't matter to me what I destroyed, I destroyed everything I could get my hands on.

I Destroyed My Apartment at the Peak of My Mental Breakdown

There was nothing particularly noteworthy occurring on the day my mental breakdown hit its peak. I had been sitting at the computer typing away for most of the day waiting for when I needed to leave for work, when my memory suddenly goes blank. It has been explained to me that I was discussing losing my wallet with my ex girlfriend when all of a sudden I slammed the laptop shut, put my fist through two televisions, and stormed out of the apartment.

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The next thing I know, my memory cuts back in and I'm at work. I had the most wonderful day at work I've had in quite some time, and everything went overwhelmingly well that evening. When I got home, though, my ex girlfriend was prepared to take the keys and leave the apartment to me — having just had an amazing day at work and not recalling destroying the televisions, I was blindsided.

My memory begins to cut in and out once again, but she ended up leaving in the middle of the night around 11 PM, and I go on a rampage throughout the apartment. I cut wires, I painted walls with a myriad of different substances, and I trashed anything I could get my hands on. When I was done with that, I loaded up a 50 pound rucksack and walked 22 miles to Pacific Coast Highway where I planned to go to Laguna Hills and commit suicide.

Luckily, there was a strange homeless man with an abundance of resources who saw me bawling my eyes out as I walked down the road and he set me on a new path in life. If only he had found me sooner in my life, I would've sought mental health help long ago. If anyone had treated me the way he did, I like to think I would have sought help for my mental breakdown much sooner.

Even at rock bottom, there are those willing to help you back up.

Even at rock bottom, there are those willing to help you back up.

What Forced Me to Seek Help for My Mental Breakdown?

I think it is safe to say that without hitting some level of rock bottom — being punished for ignoring my mental health — I never would've sought help for it. Even after putting my fist through multiple televisions, forgetting my actions almost as soon as they occurred, and destroying my apartment, I would've taken any other route available to me. Even if you asked now, "Why would you continue down that path?" my only answer would be to tell you that, "It is because my mental illness tells me not to seek help."

The one thing, perhaps, that could've opened my eyes in a much simpler way would've been my ex girlfriend not enabling my behavior for four years. She could've left me, given me the ultimatum of her and my son hitting the road for good, but even then it may not have worked. Rock bottom, feeling the pain of losing everything is the only thing that truly saved me from my mental breakdown.

Before that point of rock bottom I distrusted everyone, especially doctors and the pills they offer. When you've finally made a plan to kill yourself, and you get stopped by a stranger who puts you in your place, however, you really begin to realize that you're making a set of huge mistakes.

If you know someone who is heading down a dangerous path toward a mental breakdown, put your foot down while you still can. There are resources out there that can help you, them, and anyone else who needs the assistance!

Treating a mental breakdown is simpler than I thought it'd be, at least in Southern California.

Treating a mental breakdown is simpler than I thought it'd be, at least in Southern California.

What Does Medical Treatment for a Mental Breakdown Look Like?

Here in Orange County, California, we are allegedly considered to be the "Mecca of mental health," because of our vast array of mental health resources. I never would've known there were so many resources here had I not needed to utilize them myself. It was actually a really pleasant experience going through what they call, "Crisis Recovery Treatment" (CRT).

The steps I had to follow over the course of a month to get back on my feet were as follows:

  1. Check into a Crisis Unit for two days
  2. Attend CRT at TREEhouse South for two weeks
  3. Check into a Crisis Unit for one day
  4. Attend CRT at Coastal Star for three weeks

Overall, my recovery took me about 37 days to complete, and I am still working with doctors and social workers to establish a life post-recovery. For some, a single night in a crisis unit is enough to recover, and for others, they need up to 90 days.

Two weeks is a realistic expectation for graduating from a CRT program, and the time spent is well worth it!

Necessary Mental Health Resources

If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health crisis such as a mental breakdown, there are always resources you can utilize to get the help you need.

MentalHealth.gov is one of my favorite resources for mental health, because they offer the care and attention we all deserve in both our short and long-term mental health endeavors.

OpenCounseling.com is another wealth of mental health resources that also offers free counseling via the phone, you just need to find the number for your state.

One of the most difficult aspects of mental health treatment is finding a place you can go that actually suits your needs, so try giving these individuals a call to find a treatment center/clinician near you:

  • SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline: 1-877-726-4727

If you or someone you know is in immediate emotional distress or feeling suicidal, have them call this number, or call for them:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

No matter what you may be going through, even if you don't trust the clinicians and those on the other end of treatment, try to surrender yourself to treatment before you hit rock bottom.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Kyler J Falk

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