Are Mini-Meltdowns Damaging Your Health?

Forget mid-life crises, the Mini-Meltdown is more popular than ever and it can seriously damage your health, say experts. Read on to find out if you're at risk
Wednesday , 19 October 2011
Are Mini-Meltdowns Damaging Your Health?
Emily Cheyne

Whether dealing with an unhelpful sales assistant, to finding your car being towed away to your washing machine breaking down (when it contains the top you want to wear tonight), we all have moments in life that can feel a little challenging. But rather than live by the motto – keep calm and carry on – more and more women are doing the opposite and having regular Mini-Meltdowns (MMs).

“I probably meltdown twice a week,” says Louisa who works for a travel PR company in Dubai Media City. “Suddenly, I’m overwhelmed by something minor – like my boss asking me to book him a flight – and I’m in floods of tears, filled with self doubt. Any small thing that had been on my mind comes to the fore and seems an utter disaster: my weight, my relationship, anything. I’ll flounder for a while and then I’m over it and get on with my day. Until the next meltdown happens. I feel schizophrenic.” Louisa, 31, is healthy and has no history of mental illness yet she regularly ‘flips out’. But she’s not the only one. Recurrent, over-emotional reactions to a life situation – or MMs – are becoming a rising regular occurrence in women’s lives.

According to Emily Cheyne, owner of the UAE-based health and wellbeing company, Know How Group (know-how-group.com), “MMs are due to a competitive modern existence. Daily pressures are huge and the result is continual feelings of being overwhelmed, bottled-up anger and inadequacy.” But rather than keeping schtum and battling through, why are we more ready to lose it, and to do it so often over seemingly insignifi cant things? “Firstly, we feel at ease expressing ourselves these days because we live in a culture in which psychology and having therapists is commonplace,” explains Jules McClean, psychotherapist and clinical advisor to Counselling Directory (counselling-directory.org.uk). “Secondly, MMs feed our growing addiction to drama.” Indeed, recent US studies have shown a considerable rise in people’s narcissistic and self-obsessed behaviours, plus we are constantly exposed to celebrities’ mood swings, and see that they get away with it. “Many crave the instant attention that MMs bring,” continues McClean, And thirdly, the regular, explosive nature of MMs give a misleading feeling of having ‘purged’. After a good ol’ blowout, our stress levels are reduced, but just because you’ve been emotional, doesn’t mean you have actually dealt with your emotions. Chances are you’ve dumped them onto someone else without addressing the cause. And this is no good to anyone.

High blood pressure
Of course, in certain situations letting off steam and sharing a traumatic situation can be helpful, but the problem with MMs is that this type of emotional release is superficial and – unsurprisingly – has serious implications for our long and short-term health. “The classic signs of MM include chest pain and sweating, insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure and – if severe enough – irregular heartbeats,” Cheyne says. “The adrenal glands – responsible for our self-preservation response – suffer over-stimulation from being in constant overdrive. Consequently, this means you’re producing more cortisol and insulin, meaning your body’s chemistry is upset. You forget what it feels like to feel ‘well’ as you have no normal health baseline anymore.”

Your own health aside, consider the effect MMs have on friends and family, wondering when the next piece of crockery might come flying. “There has been a considerable rise in alpha females in recent years – those who like to control every situation,” continues Cheyne. “And despite huge success in the workplace, they are less successful with other relationships as they constantly fight to be the dominant character and this will often lead to MMs.” Indeed, mini-melts by alpha females are also often used in a manipulative manner to assert control and power. “They tend to be less about reacting in an uncontrolled way and used more as a dramatic tool or ‘weapon’,” says Cheyne. So, mini-melts are the classic go-to for getting attention and FAST. Although this doesn’t guarantee the right attention, attention is still 100% guaranteed. MMs also perpetuate unhealthy partnerships. “Sufferers are likely to attract a personality type that feeds on drama,” McClean adds. “You then create a negative, mutually-dependant situation, stuck in the roles of ‘emotionally unavailable’ and ‘drama queen’.”

Victim mindset
The MM can filter into all areas of life, too. Claire, 35, works as an events manager in Dubai and admits that her regular outbursts have impacted on her career. “I have so much work responsibility and no one seems to appreciate it,” she says. “My meltdowns grew to be so frequent that one day I once threw a file across the room. I didn’t see how my behaviour was making the office a difficult place to be. My staff didn’t know what to expect. They loathed me.”

Workplace meltdowns like Claire’s irreparably damage reputations and careers. “You’re either in a constant irrational and destructive battle, or you’ll find people walking on eggshells around you trying not to provoke another outburst,” says Cheyne. “Friends may want to spend less time with you and your career will suffer as you’re always in a negative state.” Not to mention the unfavourable reputation that you can’t cope that you’re likely to be creating…

So, what’s a wound-up woman to do? “Start looking at yourself, the meltdown pattern you’ve gotten into and how it makes you feel,” says Cheyne. “Chances are your MMs have become a bad habit and living on constant strife is exhausting and stopping you from enjoying your life, and where’s the fun in that?” So, take deep breaths and see right for tips on tackling those everyday traumas…