Can Drugs and Alcohol Cause a Mental Breakdown?

Can Drugs and Alcohol Cause a Mental Breakdown?

Table of Contents

Symptoms of a Mental Breakdown

There are many different symptoms you might experience when going through a mental breakdown that includes physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms. Although all nervous breakdown symptoms vary, some similarities can help diagnose your feelings as such. Typically, the reason for a breakdown can also influence the symptoms that are experienced.

Depressive symptoms: Might include feeling a loss of hope and thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Anxiety: Might include high blood pressure, tense muscles, sweaty or clammy hands, upset stomach, and trembling

Panic attacks: Might include chest pain, detachment from reality, extreme fear, and difficulty breathing

Being paranoid: Believing that someone is stalking you with no reason to believe so



Mood swings


If someone you love is experiencing signs of a mental breakdown, you might see them withdraw from family and friends. These symptoms include:

Avoiding social functions or situations

Not eating or sleeping properly

Maintaining poor hygiene

Calling in sick to work often or for long periods

Not showing up to work or school without notice

Isolating in the home

Substance-Induced Disorders Can Cause a Mental Breakdown

Substance-induced disorders occur when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They are essentially mental changes that are produced by either substance use, or withdrawal from a substance. For a substance-induced disorder to be diagnosed, the substance must be known to be capable of causing a particular disorder. There are a few substance-induced disorders that can cause a mental breakdown, or be the result of one.


Delirium is an abrupt change in your brain that causes you to be confused. It can also cause intense emotional disruption. Delirium makes it difficult to think, remember, sleep, and pay attention. Delirium often occurs during alcohol or drug withdrawal. It is often found in withdrawal from sedative-hypnotics (benzodiazepines), analgesics (narcotics), and medications with an anticholinergic effect.


Dementia is a term for when someone loses their memory, problem-solving abilities, and other thinking abilities that interfere with daily life. Although dementia commonly occurs as a disease in old age, anticholinergic drugs are associated with a higher risk of dementia. Anticholinergic antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs were found to create the highest risk.


Referring to the temporary loss of memory, amnesia can be caused by a few different drugs as well as alcohol. Drugs that can cause amnesia, include:

Drugs that lower cholesterol

Epileptic medication

Painkillers (narcotics)

Dopamine agonists

Antihypertensive drugs

Medications for incontinence



Psychosis is the state of being unable to differentiate between thoughts, perceptions, and reality. Although psychosis is also a symptom of schizophrenia, it can be brought on by alcohol, amphetamines, hallucinogens, marijuana, cocaine, sedative-hypnotics, and opioids.


Even though alcohol and drugs such as LSD are supposed to make you feel good, they can also bring on feelings of anxiety. Other illegal drugs such as cocaine can create anxiety as well, while legal stimulants such as caffeine, decongestants, thyroid medications, and steroids can cause anxiety as well.

Substance Use Disorder vs Substance-Related Disorders

Substance-related disorders are also known as substance use disorders. Substance-related disorders involve patterns of behavior that relate to drug use. Substance use disorders are the continuation to use a substance despite experiencing significant problems. These problems are related specifically to the use of alcohol or other substances.

Substances That Can Cause a Mental Breakdown


Because it is a stimulant, caffeine can cause anxiety and depression. Typically, these symptoms occur together and get worse with use and can result in a mental breakdown. Because caffeine is found in common drinks, such as coffee and energy drinks, this can be an easy trigger for a mental breakdown.


When first using nicotine, you may see that it improves mood and concentration. It can also be seen to decrease anger and stress, as well as reduce appetite. Despite this, regular doses of nicotine lead to changes in the brain. This eventually leads to dependence, and then withdrawal when the body lacks nicotine.


Because they are sedatives, barbiturates also have a huge effect on the mental stability of the person using them. In withdrawal from barbiturates, psychosis as well as delirium and hallucinations are common.

Reducing the Risk of a Mental Breakdown

Risk Factors for a Mental Breakdown

Many existing risk factors can contribute to mental breakdowns. These risk factors include personal history and family history of anxiety or psychosis disorders. Additionally, if you have a recent injury or illness making your life more difficult, it can contribute to the possibility of a mental breakdown. General stress can also be a risk factor for a mental breakdown. If this stress is because of external influences, it can make it even more difficult and contribute to this as well. Stress from work, traumatic events, financial issues, divorce, or poor sleep can all be reasons for contributing stress to a mental breakdown.

Methods of Reducing Distress

These methods of addressing psychological or behavioral distress can help reduce your risk of a mental breakdown:

Have a complete physical examination to ensure your overall health is not creating symptoms of a mental breakdown

Participate in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk-therapy

Speak to a doctor about taking prescription medications, including antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication

Practice yoga, breathwork, or other alternative treatments

When You Are Experiencing Symptoms of a Mental Breakdown

Breathe deeply

Count back from 10

Develop a good and steady sleep schedule

Develop a routine that will help you sleep well. This might include giving yourself a warm bath, turning off electronic devices at a certain time, or reading a book before bed rather than watch TV

Self-Care Tips to Avoid Mental Breakdown

There are many ways that you can take care of yourself to avoid a mental breakdown. This can include natural anxiety reduction by getting regular exercise at least three times per week for 30 minutes each session.

It is always a great idea to go to a therapist regularly or go to counseling sessions. This can help to manage stress healthily. You can also choose to avoid drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and other substances that create stress on the body.

One of the best ways to avoid mental breakdowns is to allow yourself breaks. Make sure to allow yourself to feel organized and even create a to-do list.

Treating a Substance-Induced Breakdown

When you are recovering from a substance-induced mental breakdown, it can often include psychosis, anxiety, depression, and other feelings along with stress. Oftentimes these substance-induced mental breakdowns also occur because of withdrawal. If you happen to have a substance-induced psychosis breakdown, there are steps you can take to handle these feelings.

Oftentimes substance-induced breakdowns or psychosis may be treated with short-term hospitalization or medical care. Despite these short-term options, they should always be followed up with ongoing treatment. Not only will this help to prevent breakdowns in the future, but it will also help to prevent relapse.

Although substance-induced breakdowns are derived from a substance, it is still possible to follow a few steps to calm yourself down and try to ground yourself. Breathing slowly, holding your breath for a few seconds, and then exhaling can be a great way to bring yourself back. Repeat this until necessary, get good sleep, and drink more than enough water.

Just remember, having a good counselor or therapist is extremely helpful. With a bit of help and a lot of mental determination, you can address mental breakdowns and prevent them from happening.

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