Crippling Depression: What Is It & Do You Have It?

Depression is a common mental illness. In the United States, approximately 17.3 million adults have suffered from at least one depressive episode. About 35% of adults who have suffered from a major depressive episode did not receive treatment, but it’s important to know that depression isn’t something that one must simply suffer.

Crippling depression can bring life to a screeching halt. Individuals suffering from this type of depressive episode may stop functioning entirely and suffer major consequences, such as loss of a job or school enrollment if the depression goes untreated. It’s important to know how to recognize crippling depression and what to do about it.

What is Crippling Depression?

person suffering from crippling depression

Image via Unsplash by @yrss

Crippling depression is severe clinical depression that makes it difficult for an individual to function at all. This major depressive disorder disrupts everyday life to a significant degree and may cause a person to lose a job or drop out of school because they cannot perform everyday tasks.

For some individuals, crippling depression occurs in brief episodes that may last a few days or weeks before the symptoms recede. Other individuals struggle with crippling depression on a long-term basis.

How is Crippling Depression Different From Other Types of Depression?

Crippling depression is not an official medical diagnosis. It is a form of major depressive disorder that’s received this particular moniker as a way for sufferers to distinguish it from moderate depression, which doesn’t prohibit one from working, going to school, or carrying out everyday tasks. The term “crippling depression” is often used to distinguish the point where depression crosses the line from a manageable condition to a disability.

Though the term crippling depression doesn’t have a medical diagnosis attached to it, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does define major depressive episodes. A major depressive episode occurs when someone experiences the following almost every day for a period of at least two weeks:

  • Changes in appetite.
  • Disturbances in sleep patterns.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Decrease in memory and concentration.
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously pleasurable.

How Is Crippling Depression Diagnosed?

Crippling depression is typically diagnosed based on the symptoms. If you believe that someone you know may suffer from crippling depression, you might observe some of these symptoms in their behavior. Upon seeking medical help for this condition, patients are often presented with a questionnaire that helps their health care provider better understand the severity of the depression.

Many symptoms of depression are emotional. When someone is struggling with a major depressive episode they may feel intensely:

  • Sad.
  • Frustrated.
  • Angry.
  • Anxious.
  • Hopeless.
  • Sorry for themselves.
  • Pessimistic about their situation.
  • Irritable.
  • Impatient.
  • Indecisive.
  • Agitated.
  • Alone.
  • Worthless.
  • Empty.
  • Guilty.

Other symptoms of crippling depression include:

  • The inability to get out of bed.
  • Lack of interest in people and activities the person once enjoyed.
  • Constant fatigue.
  • Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much throughout the day.
  • Lack of personal hygiene.
  • Severe weight loss or weight gain.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Frequent headaches, backaches, or other types of pain.
  • Thoughts of suicide or death.
  • Slow movements.
  • Severe mood swings and unpredictable behavior.
  • Digestive issues or cramps.

How Can I Know if Someone is Suffering From Crippling Depression?

Observing the behavior of those close to you will give you the best clues as to whether they’re suffering from an episode of crippling depression. You should pay attention to any sudden and significant change in behavior.

If someone you previously saw or spoke to regularly suddenly goes silent, this could be an indicator of crippling depression. If you don’t have the opportunity to see this individual in person, it will be difficult to determine the cause for their sudden silence. However, if you reach them and find that they seem sluggish, disinterested in conversation, distant, pessimistic, sad, or in emotional pain, you should consider depression as a possible culprit.

You may also notice that an individual is going through a depressive episode because they:

  • Suddenly refuse to eat, potentially sitting at the dinner table but ignoring the food in front of them.
  • No longer get out of bed.
  • Don’t shower, shave, change their clothes, or otherwise care for themselves.
  • Overeat, often without enthusiasm or enjoyment, as though on autopilot.
  • Change their sleep habits, either sleeping constantly or seeming unable to sleep for long periods.

Another warning sign of crippling depression is a sudden burst of purposeful activity or an uncharacteristic calm after a depressive episode. If an individual decides to take their own life, they will often begin acting quickly and decisively to carry out their plan.

What is the Treatment for Crippling Depression?

There are many possible treatments for major depression. Every patient responds differently, so health care providers should work closely with an individual to determine what treatment method is more effective. Some common options include:

  • Regular psychotherapy with a therapist.
  • Antidepressant medication.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
  • Self-help programs.
  • Hospitalization.

Neuropsychological testing can help health care providers fully assess the extent of psychological, emotional, behavioral, and neuropsychological issues. This type of evaluation can point you toward an effective referral who will be well-equipped to assist with the specific issues that you or your loved one are dealing with.

How Can I Help Someone Suffering From Crippling Depression?

If you believe that someone is struggling with crippling depression, create a safe and nonjudgmental environment where they can talk about what they’re going through. Encourage them to seek professional help and never suggest that they could simply “get over it” if they just wanted to. It may help if you look up contact information for health care providers or offer to schedule the appointment and provide a ride, as even these small steps can seem overwhelming to one who is suffering severe depression.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, our staff at NeuroHealth Arlington Heights can help you better assess the condition and determine your next steps. We offer neuropsychological assessments and treatments for patients of all ages. Contact us today to schedule an assessment and get started on the path forward.