Is Grief an Illness?


Is grief an illness?

Jennifer LaRue Huget writes about it today in the Washington Post. She refers to what she calls a “thoughtful editorial in the British medical journal The Lancet.”  The article explores the question and asks if grief should be treated as a medical illness?  Meaning, I guess, that medical treatment would be in order, as in medication to treat the grief.  Basically, we’re talking some sort of depression.

This topic was raised, as the  revised fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is about to be released. It seems that in the past, a psychiatrist following this manuals guidelines for proper diagnosis of a “major depressive disorder” would question the patient about a recent loss of a loved one and would then decide if the symptoms were connected to that loss.

This manual considers a “normal grief reaction” should not last more than two weeks and after that, categorizes the emotion as  depression and suggests psychiatrists treat the post-bereavement grief with antidepressants.

The author of this editorial is not known, but suggests “to treat grief with antidepressants is to deprive the bereaved person of a process that most of us need to go through if we’re to emerge whole and healthy at the other end.”  He or she, goes on to say, “For those who are grieving, doctors would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance and empathy, than pills.”

Man versus manual…..Man wins every time!

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