Depression is a common mental illness that can vary hugely in severity, from mild and transient to severe and overwhelming.
Crippling depression is an informal term that’s used to refer to severe depression — and it’s a type of depression that can affect just about every aspect of your life.
If you have crippling depression, you may find basic tasks such as maintaining a job, socializing with others and everyday essentials difficult and both physically and mentally taxing.
Yet just like other forms of depression, crippling depression is almost always treatable with the right combination of therapy, medication and self care.
Read on to learn more about crippling depression, including specific symptoms you may experience if you have it, and the different factors that may cause crippling depression to develop.
Below you’ll also find ways to treat crippling depression and make real progress towards a full, lasting recovery.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders that affects adults. In fact, according to data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2017.
That’s 7.1 percent of the entire American adult population, or approximately one out of every 14 adults in the United States.
Of adults affected by major depressive episodes, approximately 64 percent experienced “severe impairment.”
It’s important to note that the term “crippling depression” largely isn’t used in medical literature. In fact, many people find the term “crippling” to be out-of-date, hurtful and offensive, particularly when it’s used in an insulting way.
Yet although it’s not an official clinical term, the expression “crippling depression” is sometimes used to refer to major depressive disorder (MDD) that’s so severe and overwhelming that it inhibits a person’s ability to do basic tasks, such as working, socializing or maintaining a normal life.
For a person with severe depression, simple things such as waking up at a normal time, eating and bathing can become difficult.
Because it’s so severe, depression that’s referred to as “crippling” can have a major impact on a person’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
Severe depression can cause a variety of symptoms, from changes in a person’s feelings and moods to physical and cognitive symptoms that affect a person’s ability to think and function on a daily basis.
In order to be diagnosed with depression, you’ll normally need to have persistent symptoms that have occurred on a daily or near-daily basis for at least two weeks.
Common signs and symptoms that you may experience if you have depression include:
Many of these symptoms are common for most forms of depression, including major depressive disorder (MDD).
With crippling depression, as mentioned above, your symptoms may be so severe that they have a significant impact on your ability to function and maintain your normal life.
When depression is very severe, you may start to develop thoughts of death or suicide. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, or have concerns about a friend or family member, it’s important to seek help immediately.
You can access immediate help by reaching out to a trusted friend or family member, contacting your mental health provider or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
A variety of different factors can cause or contribute to major depression, including your genes, physical health, certain types of medication and environmental factors.
Common risk factors for depression include:
This guide to the causes of depression discusses these risk factors and the effects that they can have on your mental health and depression risk in more detail.
Depression is treatable, even when it feels severe and overwhelming. By identifying the signs of severe depression and seeking professional help, you can gain control over your symptoms and overcome depression for good.
The most effective treatments for clinical depression are medications called antidepressants and psychotherapy, or talk therapy.
Before you can treat depression, it’s important to talk to a mental health provider and receive an accurate diagnosis.
You can do this by contacting a licensed provider in your area, or using an online psychiatric evaluation service.
As part of the evaluation process, your healthcare provider may ask you certain questions about your symptoms.
You might be asked to complete a depression test, during which you’ll answer a series of questions about your symptoms or common depressive experiences.
It’s important to provide complete and accurate information so that your healthcare provider can prescribe an appropriate treatment.
One of the most common treatment options for depression is medication. Severe depression is often treated using antidepressants, which are medications that improve your mood and relieve the symptoms of depression.
Antidepressants work by increasing levels of chemicals in your body called neurotransmitters.
Common types of antidepressants used in the treatment of depression include:
Antidepressants are usually effective, but they require time to work. You may need to take your medication for several weeks before you notice any changes.
Many people find that their sleep habits, focus and appetite improve before other symptoms.
Many antidepressants can cause side effects. Make sure to let your healthcare provider know if you experience any severe or persistent side effects after starting treatment.
This full list of antidepressants explains how these medications work and shares common drugs that you may be prescribed if you’ve been diagnosed with major depression.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is one of the most common forms of treatment for depression. In therapy, you’ll work directly with a mental health professional to change your habits, thinking and behavior to reduce the severity of your depression symptoms.
Several forms of therapy are commonly used to treat depression, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), problem-solving therapy and interpersonal therapy (IPT).
Your mental health provider may prescribe antidepressants or other medication for you to use at the same time as you take part in psychotherapy.
This guide to therapy for depression explains the different therapeutic approaches used to treat depression in more detail. It’s also easy to find online individual counseling and anonymous support groups you can join from your own home.
If you have severe depression that doesn’t improve with antidepressants or psychotherapy, your healthcare provider may suggest electroconvulsive therapy.
This type of therapy involves activating or inhibiting certain parts of your brain with electricity.
It often provides relief from severe depression symptoms when other forms of therapy have failed, but it isn’t suitable for everyone.
In addition to electroconvulsive therapy, several other forms of brain stimulation therapy may be used to treat severe depression, including the following:
Some of these stimulation therapies are still experimental, but may be used to treat particularly severe or persistent forms of depression and other mental disorders.
When depression is severe or crippling, making changes to your habits and lifestyle is unlikely to completely resolve your symptoms.
However, simple self-care habits and lifestyle changes can have a big impact when they’re used in combination with medication and/or psychotherapy.
Try the following techniques to reduce the severity of your depression symptoms and make progress toward recovery:
This list featuring 11 ways to help depression details easy, science-based habits and lifestyle changes you can use to make progress and speed up your recovery.
When depression is severe, it can feel crippling. Things that otherwise wouldn’t trouble you can become overwhelming, and coping with the demands of everyday life can seem impossible.
However, even the most severe forms of depression can be treated with the right approach. By seeking help from your family and friends and working alongside a licensed mental health provider, you can overcome severe depression and enjoy a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.
If you’re concerned that you may have depression, you can talk directly to a licensed mental health provider using this online psychiatry service.
If appropriate, you’ll receive a personalized treatment plan that includes medication and private, ongoing follow-up care.
You can also learn more about successfully coping with depression, anxiety and other common mental health issues with the help of these free online mental health resources.