What causes a nervous breakdown

A skinful of stress and repressed emotions. Ideally theses will have built up over several years. They could be angers with work or frustrations with a relationship. The important thing is that the emotions have been bottled up inside just waiting to explode over everyone while all the time you have been keeping a straight face to the world.

A hectic day. Your boss is ringing you every minute pushing you further and further. He's just ordered you to do another job 80 miles away. Not only that, your partner is sulking because you didn't pay her enough attention this morning. You need change for the parking meter, your phone bill is due, your cars a pig-sty and everybody is behaving like complete numpties. You're on the edge.On the brink. Ready to burst.

A trigger. Somebody says something that just opens the floodgates to a tidal wave of tears and revulsion. It could be a threat, a hint at an affair, an insult. In the course of a normal day it might not affect you. But today, your mind is so scattered that it knocks you into a spin. The trigger is important as it forms a basis for the later steps which require a phone and a revenge plan.

A suitable location. The nature of a breakdown is that people need to witness it. Otherwise your friends and family won't believe you. They'll just think you're being your usual winging self. So the location needs to be public, but not so public like a busy shopping centre that hundreds of people see you curled up on the floor blubbing hysterically. And it definitely shouldn't be so close to your house that neighbour recognise you and cover their children's eyes every time you walk by. I'd also shy away from breaking down directly in front of your family. The shock value of you shaking hysterically in front of them may mean that they support you. But ultimately, you want to learn to support yourself and your estimation in their eyes may be lowered after you've dribbled spit, snot and tears down your face.

Paris Hilton: Even the best of us have emotional breakdowns
Paris Hilton: Even the best of us have emotional breakdowns

Things you might need when you have a nervous breakdown

A phone. This is essential. When you're mid-way through your heavy breathing and speechlessness call up somebody who is compassionate and has the ability to improve your situation. For me this was one of the owners of the company that I worked for. He knew that I had difficulties coping with life and had been supportive in the past. He also had the ampathy and power to help me in the long run. But this person could be anybody else. A doctor, counsellor or work colleague. Most importantly is that it's somebody with authority who you look up to and who knows you fairly well.

You will also need your phone to ring the person who has pushed you over the edge. Ideally this should be a bullying boss or manager. Really let rip with this one. Your source of authority already knows your having a hard time so you have an excuse. Scream, shout, swear and rage down the phone mid-way through your hysterics. This blood-bath of carnal abuse will leave you feeling totally serene afterwards, like a murdered who's just butchered their tormentor then lights a cigarette and kicks back in an armchair listening to the radio and chuckling. Enjoy this moment, for it's the orgasm of years of stored-up feelings. Enjoy knowing that your roars will be ringing in this persons ears for long into the night and the coming weeks.

A revenge plan. If you haven't been satisfied by screaming your lungs out at your tormentor, and the thought of them still riles you blood, then you may need to take further action to placate these feelings. Think about all the things you could do to them: learn karate and beat them up in an alleyway; set fire to their car; put laxatives in their tea; tell them to suck cock - there are plenty more ideas. Thinking about what you can do if you really wanted to will give you a sense of power and control back. But beware, you're in a fragile state. Don't actually carry out any of these thoughts. Wait a few weeks until you can look at them more rationally. If you still want to avenge them, they hey - go for it!

A breakdown budget.You're having a breakdown and all of the things you wished you said earlier have rushed to the fore. Things you wished you'd been able to do but society has prevented you from may also come to your mind. You will need a safe amount of money stashed away for this event. Cocaine, hookers, gambling and cigarettes cost money after all. Stick to the amount you have budgeted and don't go overboard. Or you may regret gambling your house on the roulette wheel or pushing 1,000 bucks into Samantha's knickers at the strip club.

Booze. It;s perfectly normal to think, 'screw the world, I'm getting drunk; when you've had a breakdown. But what ever you do, don't go overboard with the drinking. Limit yourself to a six-pack or a bottle of wine at the most or ''you may do or say something you regret at a later date'', in the words of PC Clough. Keep your supply of boozes in a cupboard with a label clearing stating that it s for emergencies only.

A bed. You will need somewhere to sleep after day's exertions. Blow me, you've done everything you've ever wanted to in under 24 hours. You're bound to be tired. What you'll need now is a good nights sleep in a lovely warm bed. Hopefully you'll have your own accommodation. If it's likely that your wife has thrown you out then make sure you have a great friend or some money left over from your breakdown budget for a cheap hotel. If you've lost your house and entire savings gambling on the stock market then hard luck - it serves you right. You'll have to sleep among the pigeons and junkies who you used to sneer at when you walked by in your pin-stripe suit and black leather shoes every morning.

A day off. Seriously, these guys cannot be expecting you to work tomorrow after everything you've been through? Just to make sure there's no hard feelings, book the next day off at the last minute. Or failing that, call in sick.

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