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Kelly Osbourne Says A Nervous Breakdown Triggered Her Relapse — We Asked An Expert Why That Might Happen

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Kelly Osbourne

Kelly Osbourne is speaking out about her recent relapse, one she says was triggered by, surprisingly but perhaps relatably, everything going a little too well.

The host told Extra, “I don’t know why my nervous breakdown happened at the end of the lockdown, I made it all the way through, everything was great and my life was perfect."

"I’m that girl that when everything is going great I need to f*** it up a little and make everything a little bit worse in my life" she went on. "I am an addict and had thought that I had enough time under my belt and I could drink like a normal person, and it turns out I cannot and I will never be normal...

"I don’t know why I even tried it. It’s not for me and it took me a matter of days and I was like done, not doing this.”

We spoke to Bruce Fredenburg, licensed marriage and family therapist, about what exactly a nervous breakdown is and how it can trigger a relapse episode.

"The term nervous breakdown is a term that is not used by mental health professionals," Fredenburg says, "but is generally understood by most people as a state of being completely overwhelmed emotionally and being unable to cope mentally with day-to-day life."

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Many of us might envision the more hysterical depictions in film or television, but Fredenburg tells us the reality is more akin to the kind of severe depression states experienced by those with major depressive disorder and other conditions.

"It can include difficulty functioning physically as well. It is often used to describe intense anxiety, including panic attacks or overwhelming depression creating loss of emotional control and mental paralysis or inability to even get out of bed," he says."

How can a nervous breakdown lead to relapse?

"For someone struggling with addictions, it can be triggered by feelings of shame — over mistakes, a breakup, rejection — or other significant losses. It might be something that the person has been able to cope with in the past but for various reasons unable to this time and lead to intense self-recriminations, and fuel the panic and depression," Fredenburg explains.

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As for what triggered it, for Osbourne, it was actually the opposite.

“I got all of my career goals happening," she said. "And then I got happy 'cause I got this incredible boyfriend and everything in my life is so great and I’m like I’m not an addict anymore."

But feeling overwhelmed is feeling overwhelmed, positive or negative. And for Osbourne, the positive mixed with a universal "2020 of it all" we can all relate to.

"On top of that pandemic fever... It all just got too much," she said.

And when things are too much, those with addiction can often turn to their old coping mechanisms. Fredenburg explains this isn't purely mental, but also a physical response.

"Especially when it also includes feelings of shame or self-loathing can lead to relapse because in a hyper-adrenalized state, the physical symptoms can become unbearable and the person will revert to using anything to dull the pain," he says.

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Drug and alcohol addictions are incredibly common.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that approximately 20.3 million people above the age of 12 have suffered from a substance use disorder in the past year.

According to SAMHSA’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, close to 2 million people of the same age bracket have suffered from opioid use disorders and 14.8 million from alcohol use disorders.

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, there are resources to get help.

For more information, referrals to local treatment facilities and support groups, and relevant links, visit SAMHSA’s website.

If you’d like to join a recovery support group, you can locate the nearest Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings near you, or you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-799-7233,.

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Courtney Enlow is Editor of Pop Culture and Good News at YourTango. Her work has appeared at Vanity Fair, Glamour, Pajiba, SYFY FANGRRLS, Bustle, Huffington Post, io9, and others. She is the former co-host of the podcasts Trends Like These and Strong Female Characters.