Is Grief Depression?

Psychologists are discussing rather hotly whether or not grief can be considered depression, and if so, at what point does it go from the natural reaction to the passing of a loved one into possible depression. All for the latest version of the diagnostic "bible" that will be released soon.

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Anyone who has lost someone close to them knows the mental anguish that it can cause. Lack of sleep, appetite, deep sadness, the longing to be with them, nightmares, and a host of other symptoms do in fact mirror depression by most clinical definitions. But grief is usually a temporary state and many believe a necessary part of the human condition that shapes us, something not to be stifled away by medicinal remedies that may not be effective and can have side effects for an otherwise healthy person. Others believe that it is treatable and that a person should not have to suffer any longer than necessary.

Which leads to the next debatable topic on the subject, how long is too long? Originally the psychologist’s “bible” which is what sets diagnostic guidelines said that a year is about the time when doctors should consider their patient’s symptoms as possible depression, rather than grief. But with the push for pharmaceutical spending going through the roof in recent times, the entry was changed to two months which was a very short time indeed. There are many who went over that deadline with no depression, but simply to get over their loss. One thing that no one seemed to consider in that calculation is grief is also based on closeness to the person and post death requirements. Certainly someone who flies in for the funeral and flies out the same night will have less of a grief curve perhaps that someone who has to clean out the person’s house, deal with family, deal with arrangements, and execution of the will, etc. In other words, what is going on in your life will have a direct impact on how long you may take. It’s all personal really, but I think we can all agree that two months is far too small a time to decide.

So in their latest version, they are talking about taking out the time limit completely, leaving it up to patients to be subjective about their own condition. This is good and bad. On the good side, doctors can intervene at any point rather than just relying on a standard that doesn’t work for everyone, especially if they recognize certain attributes that would warrant suspicion for a depression diagnosis. But on the bad side, it may also keep people from getting help they need after reading on some internet website about how grief can last for a random amount of time.

What’s right and wrong here is beyond the scope of the article, but I posted it because I have to agree that grief is not depression, BUT grief can certainly lead to depression, and filtering out one from the other is a difficult thing. My advice is to listen to your friends and family and your doctor and decide what is the best thing for you. If you feel the pain is too great, then do something about it before that grief does become an evil monster within like it does with so many.