Pseudoscience Watch: You're Not Having a Nervous Breakdown

More

Are you having a nervous breakdown? Doubtful, as "nervous breakdowns" are not a real thing. It's just a phrase we use when we're "burned out," "anxious," "overwrought," or "on the edge." As Melinda Beck writes in a semi-trend, semi-historical, semi-service piece in today's Wall Street Journal, "'Nervous breakdown' was never an official diagnosis, just a popular euphemism and convenient catch-all for the inability to function due to psychological stress." We may have come a long way from the days of diagnosing women with "hysteria," but we still persist in using the pseudoscience phrase "nervous breakdown," which has yet to be included the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

So, why do we keep saying it, if we do keep saying it? (Beck says it appears more common than in years past, but "with no official definition there is little firm data": She points to a 2000 report that used data from 1996 indicating the percentage of people reporting "impending nervous breakdowns" was up a few percentage points from the '70s, and more so from the '50s. Meanwhile, Google nGram actually seems to chart a decline in the use of the phrase in the last few years, with a spike in the nervous-breakdown heyday of the 1940s.)

Read the full story at The Atlantic Wire.

Jump to comments
Presented by

The Atlantic Wire is your authoritative guide to the news and ideas that matter most right now.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In