The term "nervous breakdown" is a throwback to a time when mental health as a way to identify healthy interaction with others didn't exist. In ther old days you were insane, crazy, or 'loony." while still around, these are useless today and no serious mental health worker uses them.
At one time, those who acted "funny" or "wierd" might see a psychiatrist whose healing arsenal was limited. Those not responsive to psychodynamic therapy (the couch made famous in cartoons)would be shipped off to a "rest home" or "asylum," places that had a richly deserved reputation as nothing more than warehouses for hiding a family "secret." Movies such as "the Snake Pit" in the 1940's brought abuses to the attention of the pubic. Lobotomies, once highly respected, became a treatment of choice in state hospitals. One practictioner bragged of performing 100 of these a day. the lobotomy simply immobolized a patient, blunting affect and erasing memory.
One could escape the clutches of the mental health system, the bad publicity, and possible permanent residency by creating a new syndrome called a nervous breakdown. Here was a label all could live with. Who wanted to be called a maniac with its attending association with axe murderers? If you were in the movies and your schedule drove you to heavy libation of the spirits, you had a "nervous breakdown." Did nerves really break? Not really but a nervous breakdown was certainly more acceptable than "she's a drunk."
Remember that labels serve no useful purpose to a society hungry for "facts" about their favorite movie star. A psychiatrist who makes a diagnosis without seeing the person in question is more an entertainer than a mental health professional. In the mental health world, the patient always comes first. The patient can expect a high degree of privacy and that there is no likelihood that a conflict of interest will develop. Conflict can happen, for example, when a spouse is brought into the treatment environment to reenact communication patterns or to confront and clarify issues that are hidden or opaque. Taking sides can cause whatever has been achieved to go right out the window.
Remember, it is impossible to evaluate from afar. An assessment includes family and patient history, precipitating factors that lead to the present, physician evaluation, and laboratory findings. Preliminary diagnosis is often stated, post assessment but is not written in stone, can be and often does get changed to reflect overall assessment The final diagnosis is made by a psychiatrist or psychologist who then recommend course of treatment and prognosis.
Presently, for example,a diagnosis such as depression, anxiiety and depression, Agoraphobia, secondary to depression replaces " nervouis breakdown" as a DSM* classification. Hopefully, we can continue to replace such conveniences with scientific classification that more correctly identifys a particular family of mental disorders.
*Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (of Mental disorders).