The term nervous breakdown was introduced into this context in 1901, in a technical medical treatise, addressed to physicians, that in some ways harked back to earlier ideas of strain.
Attention to "shell shock" in World War I provided an additional ingredient, and by the 1920s, along with continued use of neurasthenia and stress or strain, nervous breakdown had clearly become part of a standard American vocabulary.
Early development of the nervous breakdown idea depended on a mixture of individual contributions and supporting events.
Nervous breakdown thus originated as a somewhat eccentric medical idea, though one which picked up earlier mechanistic thinking.
Nervous breakdown quickly embraced an array of meanings.
Even more than neurasthenia, though with great overlap, nervous breakdown began to cover a wide range of definitions, some of them in principle hard to reconcile.
Myerson argued that nervous breakdown (in contrast to neurasthenia; writing in 1920, the distinction remained important) was insanity itself, its "stark face".
Zest for work, ind eed, was a sign that nervous breakdown did not impend, for energy and activity kept a person going.
17] And the housewife verging on breakdown was in fact a victim of modern pace herself: "A woman whose every action is hurried, whose every hour is open to disturbance, whose every breath is drawn with superfluous emphasis, will talk about the nervous strain under which she is living, as though dining out and paying the cook's wages were the things which are break her down.
Many breakdown victims in the 1940s and 1950s assumed that rest and a change of pace were essential, while others saw their problem in terms of boredom and lack of adequate challenge.
Just as nervous breakdown accommodated various views about over- and under-work, and about gender, the concept inevitably maintained vital tensions about personal blame.
Many accounts of nervous breakdown, including personal testimonies, featured a sense that people could or should work problems out on their own, that this ailment was not primarily open to outside intervention.
Again, there was no single statement, but a widespread impulse to see breakdown as a disjuncture between external reality and internal mental framework.
At extremes, the nervous breakdown concept was riddled with contradictions.
The highlighting of personal resources, often independent of, even antagonistic to professional help, and the downplaying of purely external stress in favor of the issues of mental frameworks, were crucial in this composite, which increasingly moved nervous breakdown away from many other available diagnostic categories, including neurasthenia.