What Does Crippling Depression Mean?

In this blog post, we will answer the question, “what does crippling depression mean?” We will learn the difference between crippling depression and major depressive disorder, its symptoms, and causes. We will finally look at how to deal with the condition and the treatment options available. 

Crippling Depression

Crippling depression is typically the same as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, which is severe enough to limit daily functioning and feel. It disallows you from working and living life as usual. In most people, depression lasts for a few weeks or months, but in a few, it may be treatment-resistant and remain a lifelong challenge.

Depression manifests differently in people, but the commonalities include sleep disturbances and the inability to get out of bed. 

Crippling Depression and Major Depressive Disorder: What Is the Difference?

There is no difference between crippling depression and major depressive disorder, according to mental health professionals and individuals with depression. Many people use the term ‘crippling depression’ to indicate how debilitating the condition can be. 

Many times, people with certain mental health disorders do not know how to describe their condition. Hence, they resort to unofficial and colloquial phrases to communicate the adverse effects of their symptoms. “Crippling depression” is the ideal example of such happenings.

Most people suffer from moderate depression, which does not severely impact their day-to-day functioning, but they meet the criteria for major depressive disorder. Some people experience depression that is severe enough to keep them from daily functioning at home and work or school. Crippling depression is often used to describe the latter. 

Those with severe depression mention that the disorder is “crippling.” However, this adjective is used in a derogatory sense to describe people with physical difficulties. Therefore, it is best to use more official, politically correct, and clinical terms, such as “major depressive disorder,” or adjectives like “debilitating,” “disabling,” “overwhelming,” and “devastating.” 


If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned below for at least a couple of weeks, please immediately speak with your physician immediately. 

Depression is diagnosed based on a set of symptoms and behavioral patterns. You may be given a questionnaire, such as Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI), to assess the presence and severity of depression. 

Crippling depression, although not a category of major depressive disorder, is identified easier than before. 

The symptoms you would want to watch out for include:

  • Lack of energy;
  • Fatigue;
  • Lack of motivation to engage in previously enjoyable activities;
  • Lack of interest in everything, including day-to-day activities;
  • Depressed mood or profound sadness for prolonged periods;
  • Irritability and frustration;
  • Sleep changes, such as excessive or too little sleep;
  • Thoughts or attempts of self-harm or suicide;
  • Difficulty working;
  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Changes in appetite;
  • Changes in weight; and
  • Unexplainable physical problems.

Causes of Crippling Depression

Depression may be a response to traumatic events, such as the death of a closed one, a breakup, or the loss of your job. However, in most people, depression results in inexplicable feelings, and may not have a specific event that triggers it. 

For these people, the chemicals in their brains may be imbalanced, and specific neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that transmit information) and their deficiencies could lead to their depression. 

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter predominantly associated with emotions and well-being. Inadequate levels of serotonin may lead to a lack of pleasure being derived from previously appealing activities. This imbalance is also why people have a loss of appetite and libido seen in depression. It is also associated with sleep disturbances. 

Another neurotransmitter implicated in depression is noradrenaline. This neurotransmitter is associated with arousal and attention, and when they are increased through medication, it can lead to an improved mood. Finally, low levels of dopamine also contribute to depressive symptoms. 

Dealing with Crippling Depression

Although the depressive condition may seem debilitating, there are ways you can help yourself. Here are few such ways:


Establishing a structured routine is vital to go about the day, even when there is a lack of motivation. Find out things that invigorate you, such as a great breakfast, keeping things required for the day ready the previous night, or a hot shower. Form a routine that appeals to you so that you do not feel like you have to drag yourself to make it through the day.

When making the schedule, be sure to add self-care activities. Indulge yourself now and then!

Forgive Yourself

You need to come to terms with the fact that you will have both good and bad days when you have crippling depression. Even if you are incredibly prepared, there will be times when you feel like doing nothing. Remember that that is okay. Beating yourself up for it will worsen your condition. Give yourself space and time to process your emotions and take each day as it comes.  

Cut yourself some slack. Often, what you imagine to be the worst-case scenario would be nowhere close to what happens. You may panic that if you take a nap, you will miss carrying out familial responsibilities, or if you call in sick, your boss might reprimand you. In reality, your family member and boss may be more understanding than you imagine. 

Support System

a strong network of friends, family, therapists, and other confidants can significantly help in your recovery. They may aid in getting through episodes that seem crippling and can help you manage your symptoms better. Moreover, they may even help you keep your condition in check to make future episodes less frequent or severe. 

Ensure the people in your support system are considerate, understanding, empathetic, and aware of the way depression works. Sometimes, although their intentions may be in the right place, their approach may do more harm than good. Further, you need to learn to communicate with them how they can help you. For example, tell them if you want space, some help around the house, or for them just to lend an ear. 

Celebrate Milestones (Big and Small)

It is crucial for you to celebrate milestones, big and small when you are feeling depressed. Whether it is making your bed in the morning or completing your tasks for the week, you need to recognize your effort and hard work despite the mental illness. Doing so could help motivate you and elevate your mood. 

Physical Exercise

Despite wanting to stay in bed all day, it is crucial to exercise as it can be beneficial for depression. Make sure you find the time and accommodate exercise in your weekly schedule.

The exercise need not be something intense. It can merely be 20 jumping jacks or five push-ups or anything that makes you break a sweat. Stretching and deep breathing also help. 

Seek Help 

The most important way to help yourself when you have depression is to seek help from a mental health professional. They allow you to identify triggers and teach you adaptive coping strategies to deal with your mental illness. 

Treatment Options


Neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) like serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline are implicated in depression. Crippling or severe depression is associated with inadequate levels of at least one of these neurotransmitters. This deficiency is typically combatted by the use of antidepressants, such as:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
  • Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Atypical Antidepressants

SSRIs and SNRIs are the most commonly prescribed medications. SSRIs are also recommended for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. The drugs that are prescribed for depression fall into one of these categories.

Although the first prescribed drug works for most people, there may be times when this is not the case. The physician then prescribes another medication to see which one works best. This trial-and-error applies to categories as well. If SSRIs do not work, the physician may suggest MAOIs or atypical antidepressants and so on. 

Many people show reluctance to take medication because of the side effects and personal convictions. However, considerable efforts have been made to minimize these side-effects. The benefits of the drugs outweigh the disadvantages caused by side-effects. 


Psychotherapy, lifestyle alterations, and exercise can be immensely beneficial in the treatment of depression. Medication and psychotherapy together are known to bring about significant improvements in people with depression. Moreover, it is possible to deal with depression without medication in those showing a strong hesitance to pharmacological treatment.

Therapy allows one to talk about their challenges to a professional who takes a non-judgmental outlook. You learn to identify and respond to stressors in productive ways.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can significantly help. CBT changes underlying negative styles of thinking to alter associated emotions and behaviors. It has been tremendously successful in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), apart from depression.

Medication is beneficial for a chemical imbalance. Therapy helps long-term as it teaches you the skills to manage your entire depression instead of merely the symptoms. 


In this blog post, we answered the question, “what does crippling depression mean?” We learned the difference between crippling depression and major depressive disorder, its symptoms, and causes. We then looked at how to deal with the condition and the treatment options available. 

Frequently Asked Questions: What Does Crippling Depression Mean?

What is a crippling mental illness?

Crippling depression is major depression adverse enough to restrict daily functioning, including working and living as usual. Certain people with depression undergo episodes lasting for several weeks or months, for example, after losing someone close to them.

What is the predominant cause of depression?

Ongoing difficulties, such as abuse, toxic relationships, extended periods of unemployment, long periods of isolation and loneliness, and prolonged job stress, can lead to depression more often than recent stress. 

Which is the most painful mental health condition?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is considered the most painful mental health condition as it causes intense chronic emotional pain, distress, and agony to the sufferer. 

How do you know if you have bipolar disorder?

For a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you need to have undergone a minimum of one manic or hypomanic episode apart from a depressive episode. Manic symptoms may include elated mood, erratic and uncontrollable behaviors, impulsivity, anger, sleep difficulties, racing thoughts, feeling on edge, and speech pressure.

What is a nervous breakdown?

A nervous breakdown may include random outbursts, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, and excessive mood swings. 

Which brain areas are affected by depression?

The brain areas affected by depression include the hippocampus and the dorsomedial thalamus. Abnormalities, in terms of structure and function, are noticed.

What goes on in the brain when one is depressed?

There is an influx of cortisol triggered by depression, which causes an enlargement of the amygdala. The amygdala is implicated in emotions. When this region enlarges, there are changes in sleep, activity levels, and hormones.