Thanks to LinkedIn, I came across an article on Grief/Bereavement and Depression in the NY Times. As a professional with an MSW, this article causes me to pause and to express concern. Grief/Bereavement is normal after the death of a loved one. As one who works with older adults, I have experienced the reality for many older adults, after a certain age it is more likely, that one is faced with death on a regular basis.
Depression has been underdiagnosed in older adults. When one’s health suffers and they lose friends and loved ones, the sentiment went, why wouldn’t they be depressed? The DSM-IV clearly distinguishes between normal and expected grief after loss from the more persistent and severe symptoms of clinical depression.
Grief usually runs its course within 2-6 months and typically does not require treatment with medications. Those suffering from grief report symptoms that are also symptoms of major depression; sadness, tearfulness, insomnia and decreased appetite. But, researchers have noted, grief rarely produces the symptoms of depression, such as low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness.
“Grief is not a disorder and should be considered normal even if it is accompanied by some of the same symptoms seen in depression.” – Eric Widera, Geriatrician
The 5th edition of the DSM , which is due out this year, would characterize bereavement as a depressive disorder.
In removing the ‘bereavement exclusion’, the DSM-5 encourages clinicians to diagnose major depression in persons with normal symptoms of bereavement after only 2 weeks of mild depressive symptoms.
This gives me the feeling that depression may become overdiagnosed and anti-depressants overprescribed for what should be ‘normal’ grief. What are your thoughts on this?
*Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer in Canada*
Our authors want to hear from you! Click to leave a comment
I completely agree, and have similar concerns.
The pathologizing of the range of human emotions and reactions has really gotten out of hand in this country. And no longer are we to rely on the historically very effective “cures” (the love of family and friends, community, fresh air, healthy grief, etc.), now we have to label and name every deviant expression outside of an ever narrower definition of “normal”, and of course, prescribe a pharmaceutical fix so that all emotions and reactions are numbed.
Or, what Courtney said.
I am an MSW also and I completely agree. You have taken a normal grieve reaction and made it a mental illness
Thank you for your comments. I am glad to know there (and I had a feeling there would be) other professionals out there with the same concern. Taking a normal reaction and life event like grief/bereavement after death and turning it into a mental health issue. Why?
Why the need to turn the common into a diagnosis?
I shared this information on Linkedin and received back a comment that had this article with it: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2705/when-one-spouse-dies-does-the-surviving-spouse-tend-to-follow-soon-afterwards
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/grief/MH00036 which shows that grief is ongoing and will come back as smaller reminders (anniversary date of death, special vacation site, photos)
There are plenty of studies and research to turn to, to show that grief is normal after the death of a loved one.
Instead of medication and a diagnosis, how about listening, offering/giving support, sharing a cup of coffee together. Basically, be compassionate.
I’ve encountered this in the field as well. Fortunately my supervisor with adamant that grief cannot be delineated this way. It’s really shameful for the profession to become so out of touch with common sense and everyday life. Great work Vikki, a very important piece.