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."