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What Is Nervous Exhaustion?

Updated July 19, 2017

Nervous exhaustion is a condition brought on continual, high levels of stress. Nervous exhaustion causes people to be unable to function normally and is similar in cause and symptoms to other nervous conditions.

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According to, nervous exhaustion is brought on by "chronic stress." Stress causes a release of adrenal hormones, which in high amounts can cause high blood pressure, headaches, irritability, sleep disturbances, and in extreme cases, nervous exhaustion.


Signs of nervous exhaustion may include fatigue, mood swings, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and stomach problems.


Neurasthenia is a condition similar to nervous exhaustion, caused by physical or psychological stress. According to, neurasthenia may cause symptoms similar to those of nervous exhaustion that are not accounted for by another mental disorder.


The reason that some people develop neurasthenia and others do not is unclear, though genetics and stressful life events may be factors. According to, neurasthenia is most commonly experienced by males between the ages of 20 and 55 years old.

Nervous Breakdown

According to, "nervous breakdown" is not a medical term nor is it a specific condition. Nervous breakdowns have similar symptoms to nervous exhaustion and neurasthenia, and may occur when a person experiences chronic stress to the point that he or she cannot function normally.


According to, B vitamins may counter the effects of stress. Consuming less sugar and caffeine, and engaging in some form of stress-reducing activity—such as meditation or exercise—may also help to prevent nervous exhaustion.

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About the Author

Keith Vaughn is an artist and writer in Asheville, NC. Vaughn regularly writes essays and fine art reviews for Bees And Trees Blog. He also paints and exhibits his work regularly. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

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