How to Recognize and Treat Crippling Depression Symptoms

Key Takeaways

Feeling sad sometimes is a normal part of life. But when those feelings start to impact your ability to enjoy your life and perform basic tasks, it's time to look more closely at what's going on so that you can get back on track with your mental health. In this article, we'll go over the definition of crippling depression, how to spot potential symptoms, what could be causing it, and a variety of treatment options.

What is crippling depression?

Crippling depression is not a clinical term, but it is sometimes used when someone with clinical depression or major depressive disorder is unable to fulfill basic tasks like getting out of bed or feeding themselves properly due to their symptoms.

Depression isn't as uncommon as you may think, with about 8% of adults experiencing major depression at some time in their lives. Some people might get sad and experience symptoms of depression after an external trigger, like losing a loved one or getting fired. With clinical depression, there is no trigger required to bring on feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Debilitating depression can be a one-time thing, or it can result in recurrent depressive episodes. The important thing to remember is that depression can be effectively managed with the right treatment plan.

Now that you understand what crippling depression means, we'll get into how you can recognize the symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression or major depressive disorder

When it comes to crippling depression symptoms, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lists nine distinct physical and emotional symptoms for diagnosing major depression. In order to be diagnosed with depression, the DSM-5 says that you should be experiencing five or more of the following symptoms almost every day for at least a two week period, with at least one of the symptoms being either a depressed mood or a loss of interest.

  • Consistent depressed mood
  • Diminished interest in most or all activities
  • Significant unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Hypersomnia (excessive sleep) or insomnia (trouble sleeping)
  • Slowed mental processes and reduced physical movement
  • Tiredness, fatigue, loss of energy, or decreased efficiency
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive, inappropriate guilt
  • Difficult concentrating or indecisiveness
  • Increased thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts (with or without a specific plan to commit suicide)

If some or all of these symptoms sound familiar to you, it is possible that you are struggling with crippling depression. In addition to experiencing five or more of the above symptoms, in order to be diagnosed with depression the symptoms must be causing significant distress or impairment in your ability to function.

In general, mental health diagnoses are made by a physician or a psychiatrist. If you contact your doctor, they will be able to decide on next steps, including whether you need a referral to a specialist in the mental health field.

You know what symptoms to look out for, so now let's look at some of the potential causes of crippling depression.

What causes crippling depression?

There is no single cause of depression. Instead, depression can be a result of a number of triggers or causes. Here are some of the factors that could be causing your depression.

  • Genetics/family history of depression
  • Psychological or emotional vulnerability
  • Biological factors, like an imbalance in your brain chemistry or immune system
  • Major life stress and anxiety

Depression can also be brought on by a physical illness. For example, some illnesses like lupus or hypothyroidism share some of the symptoms of clinical depression. Alternatively, depression could result as a reaction to a physical illness, where something like cancer or a heart attack bring up symptoms of depression. Depression could also be caused by neurological changes that occur due to a physical illness, like a stroke.

Major depression can occur in people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities. People can also get depression whether or not they've experienced depressive episodes in the past.

While it's not always possible to identify the cause of your depression, the most important thing is learning how to treat it.

How to deal with crippling depression

Luckily, there are many different approaches that can be taken to treat crippling depression. Here are some of the most common tried and true treatment options for symptoms of depression.


Psychotherapy is a type of talk therapy performed by a licensed mental health professional. In general, psychological counselling is the primary treatment for depression as it has shown to be both safe and effective for the patient. Here are a few kinds of talk therapy that could help you manage your depression.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a goal-oriented form of psychotherapy that helps people identify and change the thoughts, actions, and feelings related to their depression. Patients undertaking CBT are taught to monitor and record their thought patterns so that they can assess distortions in their thinking and see situations from a new, more positive perspective.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

IPT focuses on improving interpersonal functioning by looking at current issues and relationships. It can occur in a one-on-one or group format, depending on your needs.

Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT)

This form of psychotherapy emphasizes future goals and solutions for achieving those goals. By focusing on a positive future rather than the issues you have in the present, SFT practitioners can help you develop a plan for creating the life you want.


Medication for depression is often used in combination with talk therapy. In most cases, a doctor will start by recommending therapy for crippling depression, and will then prescribe medication if the depression is severe or if the patient has already tried psychotherapy and hasn't seen improvement in their symptoms. Medication can be prescribed by your family doctor, a pediatrician, or a psychiatrist.

Lifestyle changes

In addition to therapy and medication, you can take your mental health into your own hands by trying some of these self-help tips for dealing with depression.

Focus on your physical health

Try eating a more healthy, balanced diet. Examine your sleep habits and see if you can improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep. You can also spend more time outside and put an effort into becoming more physically active since exercise is recommended as a treatment for depression. You should also avoid things like alcohol and drugs, which can make your condition worse and ultimately get in the way of your recovery.

Find positive coping mechanisms

If you find yourself dealing with feelings of sadness and anxiety, look for coping mechanisms like meditation or yoga. Some people find it helpful to write down their feelings in a journal, where you can also make a note of what you're grateful for in order to refocus your energy. Another technique could be pursuing creative hobbies where you can express yourself, like art, music, or dance.

Connect with others

Depression can often feel extremely isolating, so it helps to remember that you are not alone. Consider joining a self help group where you can connect with people who are going through or have been through what you're experiencing.

Mental health resources for depression

Here are some free Canadian mental health resources that you can turn to for help with crippling depression.

Kids Help Phone

Designed for kids, teens, and young adults across Canada, Kids Help Phone offers a number of resources to help with depression or other mental health issues. They have a peer-to-peer support forum where you can engage with the community, or get connected with one-on-one support using their 24/7 text, phone, and Facebook Messenger options. You can also live chat with a professional counsellor online from 7pm to midnight ET. If you're not a kid, teen, or young adult, you can still use their services, or they may refer you to a different service.

Wellness Together Canada

Wellness Together Canada has an extensive library of free articles and videos for mental health and substance use support. They also offer courses and apps to help you practice building your mental wellness skills, connect with others, and track your mental health progress with their regular wellness assessments. You can also speak with counsellor over the phone. This service is for anyone 18+ in Canada.

Connex Ontario

While they don't provide counselling, Connex Ontario lets you call, chat, or email with them if you're looking for someone to listen and support you. They can also provide information on accessing counselling and other treatment services for mental health, addiction, and gambling issues. Anyone can call, whether you're experiencing issues or you're concerned about a friend or family member.

Crisis Text Line

Crisis Text Line is a free, 24/7 text support for people of any age, anywhere in Canada. It's powered by Kids Help Phone to connect people in crisis with trained volunteer crisis responders. Even if you're not in crisis but you just need someone to talk to, Crisis Text Line's goal is to help you reach a calmer state of mind. They can also provide referrals.

If you're experiencing crippling depression, don't be discouraged. Once you've recognized the symptoms, you'll be able to try out different forms of treatment and start feeling hopeful again in no time.


You can always feel free to reach out to Felix if you think that medication might be the right step for you.


If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts and needs immediate assistance, call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566, available 24/7. You can also text 45645 after 4pm EST. Check out our list of 90+ mental health resources in Canada here.

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