Friday, February 17, 2012

Psychiatry debates whether the pain of loss is really depression

The pain of losing a loved one can be a searing, gut-wrenching hurt and a long-lasting blow to a person's mood, concentration and ability to function. But is grief the same as depression?

That's a lively debate right now, as the psychiatric profession considers a key change in the forthcoming rewrite of its diagnostic "Bible." That proposed modification -- one of many -- would allow mental health providers to label the psychic pain of bereavement a mood disorder and act quickly to treat it, in some cases, with medication. With the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual's fifth edition set for completion by the end of this year, the editors of the British journal The Lancet have come out in strong opposition to the new language, calling grief a natural and healthy response to loss, not a pathological state.

"Grief is not an illness. It is more usefully thought of as part of being human, and a normal response to the death of a loved one," writes the editor of The Lancet. "Most people who experience the death of someone  they love do not need treatment by a psychiatrist or indeed by any doctor. For those who are grieving, doctors would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance, and empathy, than pills."


  1. I think R DR A.J. Twerki Shlita is adamant that it's not. There's an eis l'vchos, too.

  2. My wife, a licensed clinical social worker in hospice holds grief != depression.

  3. Aqualung said...

    My wife, a licensed clinical social worker in hospice holds grief != depression.

  4. That grief ought to be medicated away -- what a frightening, Orwellian fundamentalism! Truly eerie....

    As for the underlying distinction between grief & depression, Freud addressed it a century ago a paper that was to become a cornerstone of psychoanalytic method & theory, entitled "Mourning & Melancholia". The yeridos hadoros here is palpable. And that it should be the de rigeur thinking of "licensed social workers" surprises me, regrettably, not at all.

    The classical training of yesteryear has been abandoned, it seems, for the technocratic reign of medicine men--a supplanting that seems to have erased all understanding of the human condition.


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