Crutch Atrophy is what inspired this writeup.

Beware the crutches hidden in your world;
Their number is great and their ways devious.

A crutch is a device traditionally used to help a lame person walk. More figuratively, a crutch is anything that helps a person in some way, but which can cause intrinsic systems to atrophy and which may transform from a helpful supplement to a necessity. This is the crutch-problem, for when a necessity becomes unavailable, suffering ensues. For example, watching television helps some people go to sleep. After getting to sleep several times while watching TV, it becomes very difficult to get to sleep without watching TV. This is because the internal mechanisms used to relax the body into sleep are not exercised and so the resources involved are used for other purposes. In fact, intrinsic systems sometimes cause each other to atrophy because of built-in redundancy. For example, a person with a very good memory often pays less attention to their environment because their memory supplies much of the information we normally get from observations.

How do you know if you're overusing a crutch?
First, it's important to realize that ubiquitous availability of a crutch - for example drinking fountains in American cities - protects us from the basic crutch-problem. Since we can readily obtain the crutch, the problems associated with not having it can safely be ignored. Nevertheless, it behooves us to be aware of them. For example, when traveling to a country that has poor water or a lack of drinking fountains, awareness of the drinking fountain crutch helps remind us to bring along our own water.

The simple test of overuse is the cessation of use. Stop using it and see how bad things get. If they get too bad, you can learn and grow, find a way to secure constant availability of the crutch (buy an extra pair of glasses), or ignore the problem.

If you discover a crutch and you wish to wean yourself of it, here are a few pointers.
  • If you can take it and avoid damaging yourself, going cold turkey is the fastest and most effective method.
  • If you can identify intrinsic systems that alleviate your reliance on the crutch, try to use them more. For example, if you're relying on the TV to get to sleep, take a little time each day to practice relaxing.
  • When you employ the crutch, try to make it a little less pleasant for yourself. Our subconscious minds do a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work to avoid unpleasantness, even when it is self-inflicted.
  • Delay the use of the crutch whenever you can, and when you do pick it up again, say to yourself "Soon I will not need this."
  • Important! If you find things that make the crutch all the more pleasing to use, by all means avoid them. For example, delaying the use of a cigarette to mellow out is a common mistake for people trying to quit smoking. The worst thing you can do when weaning yourself is to enjoy using the crutch.
Just about everything is a crutch, and whether it makes your life better or worse is sometimes a question you can't answer until you've lived your whole life. It's a judgement call. Sometimes it's pretty obvious that a crutch will eventually make your life worse (like the traditional lame person's crutch), or generally improves it (like a pair of glasses). So despite all my efforts here, dealing with crutches still requires a lot of thought.

Crutch (kr?ch; 224), n.; pl. Crutches (-z). [OE. cruche, AS. crycc, cricc; akin to D. kruk, G. krcke, Dan. krykke, Sw. krycka, and to E. crook. See Crook, and cf. Cricket a low stool.]


A staff with a crosspiece at the head, to be placed under the arm or shoulder, to support the lame or infirm in walking.

I'll lean upon one crutch, and fight with the other. Shak.

Rhyme is a crutch that lifts the weak alone. H. Smith.


A form of pommel for a woman's saddle, consisting of a forked rest to hold the leg of the rider.

3. Naut. (a)

A knee, or piece of knee timber

. (b)

A forked stanchion or post; a crotch. See Crotch.


© Webster 1913.

Crutch, v. t.

To support on crutches; to prop up.


Two fools that crutch their feeble sense on verse. Dryden.


© Webster 1913.

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