Essay on The Myth of the Nervous Breakdown

Essay on The Myth of the Nervous Breakdown

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The nervous breakdown, a mysterious affliction that has been a staple of American life for more than a century has been wiped out by the combined forces of psychology and pharmacology. The question remains however, why do people keep breaking down?

The term nervous breakdown is inexact. Nervous breakdowns are no longer thought to be conditions of the nerves, but of the mind.

It seems psychology, over the years, has separated the term nervous breakdown into more definite categories. Today, they seem more likely to be schizophrenic episodes, manic breaks, or more closely resembling major depressive disorder. Diagnosis depends on different patients and symptoms they experience.

In the movie, Shine, Australian concert pianist David Helfgott is thought to experience a "nervous breakdown" due to the pressures of life with an overbearing, driving father. When in fact at an important performance he collapsed into a catatonic state, and is institutionalized, underwent electro-shock therapy, and drugged, the extent of his mental illness is known. Several of the symptoms David experiences resemble, in my opinion, schizophrenia. His garbled speech, his childlike actions, like jumping on the trampoline in his underwear. He is only able to find peace in the water, which he continually forgets to turn off. Here I will outline some of the symptoms experienced by schizophrenias, most of which I saw being demonstrated by David Helfgott in the movie.

The definition of schizophrenia as found in Abnormal Psychology "is the label given to a group of psychoses in which deterioration of functioning is marked by severe distortion of thought, perception and mood; by bizarre behavior; and by social withdrawal."

Schizophrenia was firs...


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... environmental factors. Treatment is designed to reward the patient only for normal behavior, social-skills training, and direct reinforcement.
  • Sociocultural theorists provide one on one case management along with community treatment programs to draw on various services in the community. It is a multifaceted support to prevent relapses.


    The study of schizophrenia has become very exciting with new research and recent breakthroughs. It does, however, make the disorder seem more complicated. If the causes were strictly genetic, or strictly environmental research would be much easier. When using the diathesis-stress model there are many different types of a genetic diathesis, together with many different kinds of stress, this allows the disorder to pose an intricate problem, one that will occupy researchers for years to come(Abnormal Psychology p. 405).
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