The term originated from WWI, indicating a soldier missing both his arms and legs, who needed to be literally carried around in a litter or "basket." Today it indicates a state of helplessness similar to the metaphoric removal of the appendages, most frequently in the context of mental health or aptitude.
- (idiomatic, slang, potentially offensive) One made powerless or ineffective, as by nerves, panic, stress or exhaustion.
- She was a complete basket case the morning of her wedding.
- (idiomatic) An institution or country in a bad condition or difficult situation (economically, financially or otherwise)
- This country is a financial basket case, a country so broke that it should be a perfect warning to lenders.
- Some countries are breadbaskets, others basket cases.
- (one made powerless or ineffective, as by nerves, panic or stress): emotional cripple