Emotional breakdown is happening to women at epidemic proportions*, yet it’s a conversation too few of us are having.
Women are up to 50% more likely* to experience stress than men, and more likely to suffer from the physical symptoms of stress as well.
But stress is only one part of the problem. Emotional breakdown is something that runs much deeper.
On the surface everything looks fine – you go to work, you perform the daily routines, and somehow keep juggling all the balls of modern adulting.
But on the inside, there’s a storm raging.
There’s a feeling of uneasiness. Of near constant anxiety and worry. You’re physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.
And yet you keep going.
You dare not stop and look at what’s really going on, lest you completely fall apart.
Until you reach emotional breaking point and Just. Can’t. Even.
- That point where you’ve run your body into the ground and your health seriously deteriorates.
- Or you look at your intimate relationship and realise it’s over, even though you don’t fully understand why.
- Or you wake up one morning and realise you’re living a life that doesn’t make you happy.
I know, ’cause I’ve been there.
My very own emotional breakdown happened in 2012 when I watched my whole life unravel in the space of about two months.
My relationship of 5 years ended. Our house plummeted in value, leaving me drowning in debt. My weight fell dangerously below 50kg, and panic attacks on the way to work were happening on the regular.
Yep. I was a red hot mess.
The thing is, the warning signs were there, but I didn’t recognise them until it was too late. I refused to look at what was really going on until my life blew up in my face.
So why did I wait until complete emotional breakdown?
It was a combination of things:
- I wasn’t ready to face the truth.
- I didn’t know who to talk to, or even how to talk about it.
- I simply didn’t understand what was going on for me, or how to fix it.
Fast forward to now, and I hardly recognise my life. I’m married to a man I adore. I have a business I’m deeply passionate about. I know who I am and I live life on my own terms.
But my journey of burnout recovery took time.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to emotional breakdown, as it required me to look at some really uncomfortable personal shit. But it was also one of the most beautifully profound and worthwhile journeys of my life.
But back to the emotional breakdown signs…
Some of them were obvious: Exhaustion. Irritability. Insomnia. Headaches. Panic attacks. But they didn’t show up until I was right in the middle of a full blown breakdown.
It was the lesser-known symptoms that were there for months – years even – that I’d completely missed, because I didn’t know what to look for.
Which is why I’m sharing them with you now.
Here are the 8 warnings signs of emotional breakdown in women I wished I’d seen earlier.
emotional breakdown warning sign #1:
You Can’t Feel Your Vagina
I used to hate my vagina. And my vulva.
Not only did I think she was shameful, smelly and kinda weird, she was also the source of cramps and period woes, unwanted attention, and all of the bullshit I associated with being a woman.
It’s no surprise my vagina was numb.
I couldn’t feel my arousal (or lack of), which meant I pressured myself into sex before I was ready.
And the physical penetration part wasn’t even that pleasurable. Sex was something I did for love and connection. But over time it just left me feeling cut off from myself, and increasingly insecure.
It was a sign that deep down, something wasn’t right. Yet I ignored the warnings.
The thing is, most women don’t enjoy the full range of sensation and pleasure in their vagina. It’s like our vaginas are asleep.
But it’s not really our fault.
The cultural shame and silence around vaginas can be difficult to break.
We’re not taught how to experience pleasure or how to wake her up. Not to mention the trauma so many of us experience that makes us shut off and shut down.
When it comes to connecting to our female bodies, especially our vaginas, there’s a lot of toxic shit getting in the way.
Toxic shit that also makes us feel ashamed of our bodies, or like they don’t belong to us. Toxic shit that makes us feel we have to compete, prove and people-please; that we have to shave, scrub, bleach, pluck, diet, nip and tuck our way to perfection.
It’s a chronic form of low-level stress that makes us feel like we’re never enough.
But building a positive relationship with your V parts can change this.
It sounds radical, yet I’ve seen it time and time again with my coaching clients and with myself: when you learn to love your body – your vagina, your vulva, your breasts, your stretch marks, your cellulite – when you learn how to embrace your pleasure birthright, awesome shit starts to happen in your life.
You give less fucks about things that don’t matter. You feel more confident. You feel like a stronger woman. And yes, you have much more pleasurable sex.
Feeling disconnected from your vagina can be an emotional breakdown sign, but it can also be the most beautiful invitation.
Your sexual confidence, your sexual health, a vibrant sex life, and abundant pleasure all await you on the other side of that journey.
emotional breakdown warning sign #2:
You Don’t Understand Your Cycle
Want to hear something incredible?
You can pinpoint the exact day you ovulate. No, not by counting days or using an app. By listening to the signs in your body.
If you’ve ever worked hard to conceive, you probably know this already, but learning this information completely changed my life.
It gave me an effective and natural alternative to the pill, and it revolutionised my relationship with my body.
- Understanding your cycle is crucial to living in harmony with your body, because the hormonal ups and downs influence your body and mind in complex ways.
- Your cycle affects your energy levels, your moods, your brain function, your sexual desire, and your nutritional requirements.
- There are times in your cycle when your body needs rest, and times when you’re All Systems Go. There are times when your social skills are peaking, and times that are best for quiet reflection. There are times when your brain is more critical, and times when you’re more creative.
But if you don’t understand these unique phases of your cycle, it’s like flying blind.
Instead of being in flow with your natural rhythms, you push against yourself. Worst of all, you end up judging yourself for being so ‘up and down’ every month.
Not understanding your cycle is a unique driver of burnout in women. Not to mention that so many of the symptoms we endure throughout our cycle – PMS, cramping, breast tenderness, irritability, fatigue, migraines, fluid retention – are in fact symptoms of hormonal imbalance, and are in most cases totally treatable.
But unless you’re informed about your individual cycle, it’s hard to take the right steps to rectify the problem.
When you know your cycle, you know yourself as a woman.
Related: Your Seasonal Cycle – The Ultimate Guide to Fixing Period Problems, Balancing Hormones, & Unleashing Your Feminine Power
emotional breakdown warning sign #3:
You’re Not Interested In Sex
When I first started seeing my ex, the sex was great. I wanted it, he wanted it, and it all seemed to happen without too much thought or effort. Everything just worked.
Until it didn’t.
Over the years my desire for sex slowly evaporated until I got to the point where the thought of it made me cringe. And it left me asking the painful question: “What’s wrong with me?”
The truth is, low desire is the most common sexual complaint among women, affecting up to a third of women in the US.
And because we don’t talk about it enough (not to mention the shitload of misinformation that is out there), most of us end up thinking we’re broken. We blame our body, our sex drive, our hormones, our libido.
But there’s usually a really good reason why you don’t want sex. And it has nothing to do with your ‘sex drive’.
Because your desire for sex is a reflection of your context – everything that’s going on in your life, your relationship, and even your mind. In other words, there’s something hitting the brakes on your sexual desire (or there’s not enough hitting the accelerator).
The most common cause of low desire, and a huge part of what was going on for me…?
Which is why low sexual desire is one of the clearest emotional breakdown signs there is.
A big part of my burnout recovery (and rediscovering my desire) was letting go of the need to be some kinda super-woman who could be, do, and have it all.
It also meant taking a good look at my life, identifying the areas where I wasn’t happy, and learning how my desire really works.
How deep you go on that journey is up to you, but there are some essentials you can do right now:
Make time for rest.
Be honest (and gentle) with yourself about what’s going on. Get support if you need it. Then commit to taking the necessary steps at a pace that feels good for you.
You’re not broken – there’s just something getting in the way. Find out what that is, and you might just save yourself from emotional breakdown while you’re at it.
emotional breakdown warning sign #4:
You’re A Perfectionist
With all the inspirational memes and personal power rah-rah out there, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype.
Wake up at 5am and hustle your face off. Goal set and productivity hack. #LiveYourBestLife. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to take a selfie and Instagram about it.
The “wellbeing” industry spurs you on harder:
The workshops, the books, the podcasts, the coaching, the health challenges. It all feels super empowering and kick-ass.
Until it doesn’t.
Don’t get me wrong – working on your ‘stuff’ and taking radical responsibility for your life is great. And yes, it will help you create a life that truly fulfils you. However you define that.
But there’s a sinister trap in the wellbeing industry that’s all too easy to fall into: pushing yourself to be BETTER because you believe you’re not enough as you are.
In other words – perfectionism. And I was guilty AF of it:
- I ran myself ragged at work trying to prove I deserved to be there.
- I yoga-ed and meditated because I thought I needed to be more ‘spiritual’.
- I read all the self-help books looking for a way to feel like a more grown-ass human.
Because I thought worthiness meant being perfect.
But the problem with perfect is that it’s unattainable. The goal posts keep moving, keeping you on the self-development treadmill. You’re continually pushing and striving and competing, but never actually getting anywhere.
There’s only so long you can keep that up before burnout and emotional breakdown hit.
The best kind of personal growth comes from a place of self-respect and inherent worthiness. It’s not about striving and proving – it’s about clarity. It’s about working out what it is you truly want and granting yourself the permission – and the self-belief – to get after it.
It’s taken me a while to ditch my perfectionism. And if I’m brutally honest, I still struggle with it from time to time. There are moments when I feel like my accomplishments aren’t enough. That I should be doing more.
But I catch myself more than ever, and remind myself to come back to self-worth and respect. ‘Cause that’s where the true magic happens.
emotional breakdown warning sign #5:
The Intimacy in Your Relationship Has Faded
A lacklustre relationship isn’t just a sign you’re headed for emotional breakdown, it can be a significant contributing factor.
Of all the areas in your life – career, health, parenting, hobbies – it’s usually your relationship with your partner that suffers most. When you’re struggling to give a piece to everyone, your relationship ends up getting the scraps.
And if you’re not feeding your relationship – whether it’s with quality time, appreciation or emotional intimacy – it’s going to suffer.
In other words: complacency creeps in.
If your relationship is in relatively good shape, it can probably weather this for a short period of time. But no matter how strong, there’s no relationship that can live off scraps forever.
Over time your communication breaks down. Your patience for each other wears thin and you start bickering over stupid shit. Even though you see each other every single day, you’re like ships passing in the night.
You feel unappreciated, unloved and unseen. And if you could actually ask them the question without it turning into an argument, they’d probably say they feel the same way.
Of course, it takes two to tango, and the problems in your relationship might run deeper than just complacency and neglect. But emotional burnout puts so much strain on a relationship that it can send it to breaking point.
The good news here is that addressing burnout and improving your relationship has double the benefit: Your relationship is no longer a source of stress in your life AND it becomes a safe haven that nourishes and replenishes you.
It may just be the best thing you do not only for your mental health, but your shared happiness for the rest of your life.
emotional breakdown warning sign #6:
You’re Always Comparing Yourself With Others
As Theodore Roosevelt so wisely said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”.
If we know it’s so unhealthy, why do we keep doing it?
Here’s the thing:
Comparison can be useful. When you ‘compare down’ to those less fortunate, it can help you appreciate the blessings in your life, or just how far you’ve come. And when you ‘compare up’ to those that inspire you, it can give you direction, motivation, and help you figure out what you want.
But if you’re constantly comparing and feeling like shit about yourself, it’s a dangerous sign of emotional breakdown.
It’s more than just comparison though.
What triggers us in other people can say a lot about our relationship with ourselves. We get stirred up and triggered by the very things we self-judge or feel out of touch with:
- Think someone is bragging or showing off their success? How successful and fulfilled do you feel in your own life? Is there some untouched passion that you wish you were pursuing or being praised for, but are stuck worrying about failure?
- Find yourself judging another woman as attention seeking or slutty? What’s your relationship with your own sexuality like? Do you know how to embrace your sensuality? Do you feel unsafe or shameful about expressing yourself as a sexual being?
A healthy relationship with yourself allows healthy relationships with others – especially women.
Address those areas in your life where you’re not expressing yourself as the whole woman that you are. You’ll find it so much easier to celebrate the women around you instead of feeling threatened or competitive.
emotional breakdown warning sign #7:
You’ve Got Decision Fatigue
There’s your everyday garden variety indecision, like trying to pick a movie on Netflix…
Then there’s the kind of indecision that cripples you and brings your whole life to a grinding halt.
Chronic indecision means you plan less and stop taking action, starting a downward spiral of overwhelm that brings on emotional breakdown even sooner.
When I reached my point of emotional breakdown, the rest of my life unravelled pretty quickly:
- I couldn’t decide what to eat, so I’d just eat junk or skip meals altogether.
- I couldn’t decide how to spend my weekends, so I just sat around watching movies feeling like crap.
- I couldn’t decide on a spending plan (‘cause what even are my priorities?) so I kept on spending recklessly and falling deeper into debt.
But the hardest decisions were the big ones:
WTF do I want to do with my life? Am I happy in my job? Am I happy in my relationship? Should I stay, or should I go?
I was completely and utterly stuck. All because I didn’t know how to choose.
Being decisive comes from knowing who you are and what you want. It requires you to have boundaries, to understand your needs, and to feel confident standing by them.
I was only in my mid-twenties at the time, so I didn’t feel like I really knew myself yet. And my boundaries were definitely shaky.
But when you’re close to an emotional breakdown, your self-confidence takes a dive, making it hard to move forward in any direction.
You can’t hear your inner voice or what you really want because there’s so much background noise drowning it out.
At the time it was easy to brush off, because adulting is hard, right? But now that I’m on the other side, I can see just how deep my indecision ran, and how much it was messing with my life.
It can be a scary journey, but working out who you are and what you want to do with your one wild and precious life is everything.
emotional breakdown warning sign #8:
You Find It Hard To Say ‘No’
Being a ‘good woman’ is too often modelled as being passive, subservient, or a people-pleasing martyr.
It’s a hangover from our pre-feminist ideals for sure, but it also stems from the mother archetype – the ultimate self-sacrificing, unconditionally loving maternal being.
Unfortunately, we’ve reduced this archetype to a meek, two-dimensional simplification.
A mother has incredible strength and power, and can be downright vicious when those she loves are threatened. And if you’ve ever had the honour of witnessing a woman give birth – there’s nothing demure or gentle about her. She’s raw and primal and incredibly powerful.
Here’s the point I’m trying to make:
You don’t have to sacrifice your power to be a ‘good’ woman. Nor do you have to be rigid or aggressive. You can be open and loving even while you have strong boundaries. You can be supportive and kind even while you stand strong in who you are and what you want.
And ultimately, you get to define what ‘woman’ is all for yourself.
If you can’t say ‘no’ out of a sense of guilt or duty (or want to say yes but can’t for the same reasons), then you’re betraying yourself for the sake of others.
You don’t have to put your needs before everyone else, but at the very least, you have to give them the same value.
Your ‘no’ makes space for your ‘yes’. And without your no, you’ll always have too much on your plate, and not enough time for yourself.
Repeated over time this adds up to a life lived for those around you, instead of a life lived for yourself.
Preventing Emotional Breakdown
You don’t have to reach crisis point before you get real and take stock of your life. If you’re noticing any of these emotional breakdown warnings signs, you can start the journey now.
Ask yourself the tough questions and listen to what comes up.
All of these burnout symptoms are both a warning and a place to start. Addressing each one has a reward unto itself.
- Build a healthy relationship with your body and you unlock a whole new potential for pleasure and self-love.
- Tune into your cycle and you learn how to live in harmony with your hormones.
- Get to know yourself on a deep, unshakable level, and you can start saying yes to the life you really want to live.
Address them all, and you live as the powerful, confident, radiant woman you came here to be.
Hi, I’m Jodie - a life, love, and sexual empowerment coach. I work with women and couples to help them create the lives, love, and sex they’ve always wanted. More love, more passion, more pleasure, and more fulfilment.
Apply for a complimentary 1:1 coaching session here.