Pseudoscience Watch: You're Not Having a Nervous Breakdown

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.

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