Myerson argued that nervous breakdown (in contrast to neurasthenia; writing in 1920, the distinction remained important) was insanity itself, its "stark face".
The oft-asserted increase in the rate of nervous breakdown here became part of a widely-accepted causation pattern: modern life verged on becoming too demanding.
Zest for work, ind eed, was a sign that nervous breakdown did not impend, for energy and activity kept a person going.
Just as nervous breakdown accommodated various views about over- and under-work, and about gender, the concept inevitably maintained vital tensions about personal blame.
Here, perhaps, was a backhanded resolution to the mix of components in the nervous breakdown concept: victims were rarely frauds, yet there were underlying weaknesses, and at the same these were subject to rational mastery.
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.
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.
Nervous breakdown provided major service for at least half a century in reaching an unprecedented audience, which accepted the term, and in combining complex symptoms with several key explanations.
The idea of excessive pressure on children from extensions of schooling, for example, took root around 1900, finding expression in childrearing manuals and a longstanding campaign against homework, as well as entering into popularizations of nervous breakdown.
The nervous breakdown definitions neatly coincided with the advent of major innovations in the standards for emotion, appearance and personal function.
Nervous breakdown also arose at a time when drug use was changing rapidly, especially for middle-class women.