Thursday, February 23, 2012

Is Normal Grief a Mental Illness?

A few weeks ago, Russ sent me a few links of articles he thought I'd be interested in reading. As I read through them, it was with a great deal of shock. Here's the articles:
Is Grief An Illness?
Shyness, grieving soon to be classified as mental illness
Defining Grief

The latest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as the DSM, is to be published by the American Psychiatric Organization in 2013 (this is the current edition: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR Fourth Edition (Text Revision)). The bottom line to these three articles is that among other things, the way grief is dealt with is facing a change.
Specifically, the criteria for diagnosing depression would be broadened to include bereavement. Previously, bereavement was excluded from the diagnostic criteria for depression if a patient had experienced the loss of a loved one within 60 days. The revision to the DSM would change that and allow physicians and therapists to bill for treatment of depression during the first 60 days following a death.

So, let's think about this. If one of my loved ones died, then with the change to the DSM, I could be diagnosed as depressed within days of the person's death. That doesn't really make sense to me. Now, I am not saying that a person cannot become depressed after the death of a loved one. But what happened to being allowed the time to grieve? In Ecclesiastes 3, we read:
There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

Grief is a journey. The journey is different for every person. Some journeys will include depression and the need for medical help. But not all journeys!

So, is this potential change just a ploy to be allowed to prescribe more medications? Did pharmaceutical companies have any impact in this decision? Why is such a change being proposed when it will most certainly only increase diagnoses that are false-positives and increase people being prescribed medications that are not necessary? I am glad to see that a coalition of more than 32 organizations has formed requesting that this and other potential changes be reevaluated. Hopefully this will occur and soon!

Any thoughts on this? Is normal grief a mental illness?

Image from Pinterest


  1. Just another way to get people addicted to drugs that is part of a vicious cycle.... :-(

  2. It's a conspiracy! Just kidding. I think grief is just a normal process that everyone goes through after a big loss. It doesn't have to be the loss of a loved one. You can grieve the loss of a pet, a job, a friend, etc... They need to rethink this one.

  3. I think we must be very very careful about judging mental illness. If one's grief is causing them to be unable to sleep, eat or carry on daily activities it is certainly worthy of intervention medicinally. Anti depressants are not ADDICTIVE any more than insulin is addictive to a diabetic. This is a very difficult subject. People develop all kinds of illnesses after the stress of death of a loved one. WE treat the other physical issues , why is mental illness different.?

  4. I agree with you Kathy! My concern is that by changing this, they are opening things up for a person to instantly being diagnosed with a mental illness without allowing them to process normally through their grief. I am on an anti-depressant and I needed help with my grief after our miscarriages. However, I think that not even allowing a person to work through the stages of grief but instantly diagnosing them with a mental illness is not the right thing to do. Does that make sense?


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