I'm looking for a word, or maybe phrase, that could characterize the following situations:

  1. Nearly dying as a result of an attempted suicide, leading to a long period of arduous physical and mental recuperation.
  2. Going through a period of time where certain symptoms of a medical condition return, leading to things like seizures, episodes, profuse bleeding, etc.
  3. Getting hit by a car, resulting in months of physical and mental therapy.

Notice how in each of these situations, something physically and mentally horrible happened to the person and lots of mandatory recuperation followed. I am not trying to characterize the following situations:

  1. Having a family member die, resulting in periodic sorrow that lasts for about a month
  2. Spraining an ankle, resulting in a few weeks of easy recovery

In no way do I mean to downplay the severity of the last two situations. I'm just trying to make a strong distinction in my writing.

  • Have you tried looking in medical dictionaries? You're looking for a technical term and those should be a good source. Start with 'trauma' or 'recuperation' and go from there.
    – John Feltz
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 21:23
  • The triggering event, if not a trauma due to some accident, is apt to be called a "medical crisis" or "health crisis". The period after is the "recovery period", or some such.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 21:31

3 Answers 3


The only single words I can think of are incapacitation, debilitation, and disability. One could extend these words to phrases, e.g., incapacitating injury, debilitating illness, disabling condition. Each could require a significant period of recovery, e.g., long-term rehabilitation, physical therapy, psychotherapy, or convalescence.

incapacitate: to deprive of ability, qualification, or strength; make incapable or unfit; disable. Synonyms: cripple, handicap, sideline.

debilitate: to make weak or feeble; enfeeble.

disability: anything that disables or puts one at a disadvantage.

disable: to make unable or unfit; weaken or destroy the capability of; incapacitate.


Your #2 is relapse. For example, "The antibiotic treatment wasn't long enough, and I had a relapse." (When that happens, you are generally much sicker than you were the first time.)

In general, you could say that during the worst of it, you were in critical condition. However, watch out, this has a specific meaning -- the hospital would classify you as in "critical condition", or not. They have specific criteria. Your situation is touch and go when you're classified as being in critical condition.


If you're looking for a term to emphasize the emotional distress of such a situation, I might suggest health scare.

A situation characterized by alarm or anxiety about the risk of developing or being diagnosed with a particular illness or condition.

"he caused an international health scare by travelling with a dangerous form of tuberculosis"
"she's back in good spirits again after a recent health scare"

(Oxford Dictionaries Online)

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