Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pathologizing Grief

I’ve been known to pluck the DSM IV off my bookshelf every now and then, and for many, it’s a staple item for all things psychiatric and diagnostic. And soon I’ll be looking forward to the DSM-5.

But, as many are aware, a proposal to medicalize or pathologize grief is attracting significant opposition and criticism.

The DSM 5 would encourage the diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder almost immediately after the loss of a loved one — having just 2 weeks of sadness and loss of interest along with reduced appetite, sleep, and energy would earn the Major Depressive Disorder label.

Many will say normal grief is not 'Major', is not 'Depressive,' and is not 'Disorder.' Grief is the normal and necessary human reaction to love and loss. One critique asks Why not make "thinking clearly" a mental illness?

One bothersome thought is that anyone who has experienced both severe depression and intense grief knows they are not the same thing. A grieving person might become depressed, but that means they were not depressed to begin with. It is questionable if antidepressants would do much for grief.

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