By Elysia Tucker, LPC, ADC
All people experiences loss at one time or another in their lives. Grief is a natural process arising from the loss of someone or something important to you. While it is normal to experience grief, it is important to know the difference between grief and major depressive disorder, and when to seek help with either.
Grief has several symptoms in common with major depressive disorder, including intense sadness, insomnia, poor appetite, weight loss, difficulty concentrating, anger, loneliness, and isolation. With grief, symptoms usually decrease over time, as the person accepts the loss and reinvests in life again. Complicated grief means that the process is taking longer than normal, or that the person grieving is engaging in self-destructive behaviors. This can lead to major depressive disorder.
Warning signs of major depressive disorder include:
- Feelings of guilt not related to a loved one’s death
- Thoughts of suicide—although in grief there can be thoughts of “joining” the deceased
- Intense feelings of worthlessness
- Sluggishness or hesitant and confused speech
- Prolonged and marked difficulty in carrying out the activities of day-to-day living
- Hallucinations and delusions
These symptoms indicate a real need for therapeutic intervention. Major depressive disorder can be dangerous if left untreated, and can rob you of the joy of life.
Although grief is painful, the process of working through your feelings is important. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and each journey is unique to each person. Be sure to have a trusted friend, family member, member of the clergy, or counselor to talk to.
If you think you are experiencing complicated grief or major depressive disorder, it is vital to receive caring help from a professional.
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