What is Crippling Depression?

What is Crippling Depression?

Authored by Pin Ng PhD

Edited by Hugh Soames

Reviewed by Michael Por, MD

Crippling Depression

What is Crippling Depression?

Crippling depression is a major depressive disorder that people experience around the globe. The condition is severe and limits basic functions which include a person’s ability to work and live a normal life.

Some people afflicted with the disorder experience episodes that may last a few weeks or months. These episodes may occur following the loss or death of a loved one. Some cases of crippling depression are resistant to treatment. These can become a lifelong struggle1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2395346/.

Every case of crippling depression is a unique experience. There are some common symptoms people experience with crippling depression including difficulty sleeping or getting out of bed. An individual may end their careers or schooling and spend time in bed all day without having the energy to get up.

Is Crippling Depression and Major Depressive Disorder the same?

Some mental health experts consider crippling depression as a synonym for major depressive disorder or clinical depression. Popular terms used to describe mental health illness do not always come from research, universities, or mental healthcare organizations.

Rather, people who experience life with certain mental health disorders use unofficial names to express levels of severity and describe how symptoms are affecting their lives. The term ‘crippling depression’ is a perfect example of individuals suffering from the illness giving it a name.2https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2398212818799269

Evidence shows that depression experienced by people who label it as ‘crippling depression’ is significantly different than other forms of the mental health disorder. Mental health experts do not classify an inability to work as part of depression. However, with crippling depression, a person may feel they are unable to carry on with activities that others with depression disorder do.

Crippling depression is called high-functioning depression by some people. Some sufferers do not like the term ‘crippling’ to be used. It is felt by many that using the word crippling makes it seem like the person has something permanent and preventative to getting better.

How is crippling depression diagnosed?

A mental health expert typical diagnoses depression based on a patient’s symptoms and behavior patterns. A doctor may ask the patient to fill-in a questionnaire to help them determine whether depression is being experienced and how severe it is.

Crippling depression, while not an official label, is being frequently recognized by doctors and mental healthcare experts more than ever before.

The symptoms of crippling depression may include:


  • Persistent and intense feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration
  • Thoughts and premonitions of suicide
  • Sleep disturbances, sleeping too much, or too short periods
  • Apathy, exhaustion, and a lack of interest in activities or people
  • Difficulty working and concentrating
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Severe mood swings or shifts in temper
  • Weight changes with gains or losses experienced
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Frequent pain such as backaches or headaches


Defining crippling depression

There are some key questions you can ask yourself to determine if you are depressed. However, a self-test will not diagnose you with depression. A mental health professional is needed to properly diagnose your depression. If you believe you have crippling depression, ask yourself:

  • Do you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep during the night?
  • Do you sleep 10 to 12 hours a day?
  • Do you sleep most of the day?
  • Have you lost interest in the things that previously brought you joy or excitement?
  • Have you been absent from work more than once in the previous month due to feeling too fatigued or in pained to work?
  • Are you more irritable and easier to upset nowadays?
  • Do you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide?
  • Has your appetite increased or decreased?
  • Are there days in which you feel that you don’t have the energy to do the things that need to be done?


What is the treatment for crippling depression?

Treatment for crippling depression consists of some of the same treatments as other types of depression. However, the process can be more intense to help you heal and end the most extreme effects of the disease.

Crippling depression treatment methods include:

  • Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a common depression treatment. People with extreme depression will visit a therapist regularly which may be a catalyst for improvement. A therapist can help you learn to live with stressors and respond or react in ways that produce healthier feelings and emotions.

  • Medication

Antidepressants are often prescribed by doctors to patients with major depression disorder and other types of depression. Medication can help regulate hormones and chemicals that combine to create many aspects of emotional health and mental health. This includes the balance of neurotransmitters.

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

ECT is typically used in cases that other treatment options have not worked. A doctor will electrically stimulate portions of a patient’s brain while the patient is under anesthesia. The ultimate goal of ECT is to change the chemicals in the brain to stop the symptoms of depression.

  • Inpatient Clinic or Depression Rehab

People who with crippling depression may have thoughts of suicide or even attempt suicide. Individuals may be unable to care for themselves properly. In cases such as this, short-term inpatient treatment may be necessary. Hospitalization and intensive depression rehab treatment provide patients with individual therapy, medication, and group counseling sessions. The aim is to help the patient reach a place in life in which they can safely leave the treatment facility. Their treatment will continue outside the hospital setting.

  • Intensive Outpatient program

Just as with a traditional psychotherapy session, intensive treatment uses methods like CBT, mindfulness, and exposure response and prevention (ERP). The idea behind the intensive sessions is to teach strategies to decrease the person’s symptoms and provide support, but to do it within a framework that allows them to live at home and continue family or personal activities.

According to Philippa Gold, Chief Clinical Officer of Physis Recovery, “Depression affects millions of people each and every year, at every stage of their life. This debilitating mental illness develops from a combination of social, genetic, biochemical, psychological and physical factors. We understand that depression is more than just a feeling of sadness and that it affects people in different ways leading many seeking help, including rehab for depression, treatment for depression and other mental health services.”

Causes of crippling depression?

Mental healthcare providers are not 100% clear about what causes depression in any form. There are specific factors that may increase a person’s risk for developing depression. Yet, it is unknown why some individuals develop crippling depression and others do not.

A person’s risk factors for crippling depression include:


  • Long-term depression
  • Family history of major depression disorder
  • Persistent or high levels of stress
  • Chemical and hormonal changes
  • Other physical or mental health illnesses
  • Personal life changes, such as divorce, job loss, or the death of friends and/or family members


Crippling depression can be treated in most cases. Your doctor or therapist can work with you to find a combination of effective treatments. Depending on how you respond to the treatment, your healthcare provider can adjust it as needed.

Check out the Worlds Best Depression Rehab Clinics

Are you suffering from Crippling Depression?

References: Crippling Depression

  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (text rev.) Washington, DC: Author; 2000. []
  2. Barlow D.H. Anxiety and its disorders: The nature and treatment of anxiety and panic (2nd ed.) New York: Guilford; 2002. []
  3. Barnett P.A, Gotlib I.H. Psychosocial functioning and depression: Distinguishing among antecedents, concomitants, and consequences. Physis Recovery Psychological Bulletin. 1988;104:97–126. []
  4. Beck A.T, Rush A.J, Shaw B.F, Emery G. Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford; 1979. []
  5. Clark L.A, Watson D. Tripartite model of anxiety and depression: Psychometric evidence and taxonomic implications. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 1991;100:316–336.[]
  6. Dougher M.J, Hackbert L. Establishing operations, cognition, and emotion. The Behavior Analyst. 2000;23:11–24. []
  7. Gilbert P. Depression: The evolution of powerlessness. New York: Guilford; 1992. []
  8. Hayes S.C, Follette W.C. Can functional analysis provide a substitute for syndromal classification in crippling depression? Behavioral Assessment. 1992;14:345–365. []
  9. Leahy M. Alterations in individuals’ behaviour in contexts of high-risk environments. Journal of Personality. 1997;22:339–406. []
  10. Martell C.R, Addis M.E, Jacobson N.S. Depression in context: Strategies for guided action. New York: Norton; 2001. []
  11. Price J. The adaptive function of mood change. British Journal of Medical Psychology. 1998;71:465–477. [PubMed]
  12. Skinner B.F. Crippling Depression. Oxford, England: Macmillan; 1953. []
  13. Watson P.J, Andrews P.W. Toward a revised evolutionary adaptationist analysis of depression: The social navigation hypothesis. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2002;72:1–14. [PubMed] []
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