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Mental health researchers have identified the nervous breakdown as a condition that closely resembles an adjustment disorder, with combined feelings of anxiety and a depressed mood. Genetic factors, life experiences, and an overall decline in functioning contribute to a nervous breakdown. However, the medical consensus is that a nervous breakdown is distinctly different than a diagnosed mental illness, although the condition may share symptoms with some serious mental illnesses.

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1. “Nervous breakdown” is not a medical term

In the 1800s, it was common practice for doctors to commit persons with mental illnesses to mental asylums. The term "nervous breakdown" emerged as a diagnosis in the 1900s, with physicians using the term to describe a wide variety of nervous disorders. Some may have used nervous breakdowns as an alternative diagnosis to prevent patients from being committed to an asylum. Physicians viewed a nervous breakdown as a temporary nervous issue. They believed that accumulation of stressors or a severe crisis triggered the condition. Medical professionals no longer use the term “nervous breakdown” as a valid diagnosis.

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