The loss of a loved one can have a huge impact on one’s emotional state. Grief takes many forms and is handled is an endless number of ways. There simply is no rule book for how to deal with grief, but what about the rule book for deciding when grief becomes depression?
The American Psychiatric Association, or APA, and its diagnostic manual has long warned doctors away from diagnosing major depression in people who’ve just lost a loved one. It’s known as the bereavement exclusion in the DSM, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A proposed change in a draft of the DSM’s next edition, however, due out next year, eliminates that bereavement exclusion, leaving many worried about where to draw the line between grief and depression.
Whether you are concerned about your own emotional response to a recent loss, or that of a loved one, one thing that most professionals in the field agree upon is that if the person who is grieving is concerned that he or she is suffering from something deeper than grief, it is time to seek help. There is no timetable for grief; however, the longer the symptoms continue, the higher the likelihood that grief has become depression. Whether the APA recognizes a bereavement exclusion or not, the bottom line is that anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one is at risk for passing from grief to major depression as a result of the loss. Take the time to consult with a professional, or encourage a loved one to do so, if there is any concern that the grieving process may be headed toward depression.