How Common Are Mental Breakdowns During Therapy Sessions?

Written By

Erica Barnes

Updated:

Fact Checked

painting of man with colors and circles around him

Note: This post is supported by our readers and contains affiliate links, which will earn us a small commission at no extra cost to you. Therapy Helpers does not accept money for reviews.

Experiencing strong emotions during therapy sessions is quite common. However, full-blown “mental breakdowns” are less frequent. This article explores the prevalence of emotional distress and crying in therapy.

What Qualifies As A “Mental Breakdown”?

Key Signs Of A Breakdown

  • Uncontrollable crying or agitation
  • Panic attack symptoms
  • Feeling detached from reality
  • Urges to harm oneself

Breakdown Severity Scale

LevelSymptoms
MildBrief crying spell
ModeratePanic attack
SevereDetachment from reality
ExtremeSelf-harm urges
YouTube video

Crying Is Surprisingly Common

Research on crying in therapy indicates:

  • Clients report crying in up to 73% of sessions
  • Therapists report clients crying in up to 61% of sessions
  • Crying is often associated with discussing traumatic memories
  • Women cry more frequently than men

Risk Factors For Distress

Individuals Prone To Distress

  • Those with histories of trauma or recent major stressors
  • People with borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Those withdrawing from alcohol or drugs
  • Individuals in crisis from suicidal ideation

Therapists’ Crisis Training

Deescalation Techniques

  • Calm, non-judgmental communication
  • Grounding strategies to reduce dissociation
  • Finding the emotions behind behaviors

Good Therapy Often Involves Some Distress

Emotionally intense therapy sessions can indicate positive progress, rather than problems. The expression of feelings held back for many years facilitates healing. With support from a skilled professional, clients learn they can safely face extreme emotions without completely breaking down. This leads to empowerment and growth.

Ad, keeps our community free. The perspectives presented on this website are genuinely our own and we do not accept money for reviews.

betterhelp logo
review

4.5 (7,344+) FROM TRUSTPILOT

Fill out a brief questionnaire and get matched with an experienced therapist online in as little as 48 hours.

✓ Over 35K licensed professionals

✓ Financial aid available

✓ Subscriptions as low as $65/week, billed every four weeks

✓ Cancel plan or change therapist anytime

20% off your first month through Therapy Helpers

Looking for more mental health tips? Make sure to follow our Mental Health Board on Pinterest!

Recommended Insights:

A serene room with a comfortable chair, soft lighting, and calming decor. A therapist guides a client through relaxation techniques and positive affirmations

Hypnotherapy for OCD: Is It Effective?

Discover how hypnotherapy can offer a transformative approach to managing OCD, providing relief and empowering individuals to reclaim control over their lives.
A laptop sits open on a cluttered desk, displaying a video call with a therapist. A globe and travel souvenirs surround it, hinting at the expat's struggle for identity

Expat Identity Crisis: Navigating Self-Discovery with Therapy

Discover how therapy can help expatriates navigate the complexities of self-identity and find a sense of belonging in foreign lands.
A laptop displaying a video call between two people in different time zones. A world map in the background symbolizes distance. A therapist's office setting with calming decor

Mental Health for Expats: Maintaining Long-Distance Relationships

Expats navigating long-distance relationships can find essential support and strategies through online therapy to maintain their mental health and strengthen their emotional connections despite the miles apart.

About the author

Erica Barnes

Erica Barnes

I’m an African American woman living in New York, with a Bachelor's degree in Communication. I’m passionate about researching mental health topics, spirituality, and breaking down stigma in my community. I’ve dedicated my life to shedding light on important issues surrounding mental health and working towards creating a more understanding and compassionate society. As a researcher at Therapy Helpers, I’m here to use my skills to educate and inspire others through insightful articles. Thank you for being here!Social

Leave a Comment