"Please lock me away,
And don't allow the day,
Where I hide
With my loneliness.
I don't care what they say
I won't stay--
In a World Without Love."
A World Without Love, 1965
Peter and Gordon
Music and Lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
When I look at Friedrich Nietzsche, I see a brilliant soul in torment. Like me, he lost his father at the age of four-and-a-half. Nietzsche had a domineering mother from whom he received little if any affection. She was probably exceptionally hard on the young Nietzsche, trying to "toughen him up," so that he would not commit suicide as his father had at the age of 44--the same age at which Nietzsche had his "nervous breakdown"--leaving only shame and disgrace to his family.
My father died of a heart attack at 36, due to a heart damaged by rheumatic fever. My mother did fine in the loving-care department, except in choosing my stepfather, who was abused as a child, an incipient alcoholic, and in turn, emotionally abusive to me. I too had my "nervous breakdown" at 44, due to the aftereffects of the abuse, the onset of type II diabetes, loss of my job, and the death of my primary emotional support (my mother and grandmother) a few years earlier. Modern psychiatry and drugs has helped me, but Nietzsche did not have those options, so I more than empathize: I sympathize with the great philosopher.
Nietzsche lived in a time when both human psychology and psychiatry were barely in their infancy. Sigmund Freud was thirty-two the year Nietzsche had his break-down: barely beginning his practice that would bring him both world-wide fame and notoriety. Carl Jung was thirteen, years from beginning his studies under Freud in Vienna, and many more years from asserting his independence of Freud and his former mentor's preoccupation with sex as the single driving force for humankind.
Besides a possible genetic predisposition to mental illness, I believe that it was Nietzsche's lack of loving, emotional support--unconditional or not--that was at the root of his breakdown.