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Grief is not an illness, warns The Lancet


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The British medical journal criticizes the proposed US DSM-5 diagnosis handbook for psychiatry.


Grief is not an illness, warns The Lancet


By Stephen Adams, Medical Correspondent


6:45AM GMT 17 Feb 2012, The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9086532/Grief-is-not-an-illness-warns-The-Lancet.html


Bereaved relatives overcome by grief should not be given pills and treated as if they are clinically depressed, a leading medical journal warns today (Fri).


"Grief is not an illness", say the journal's editors in an impassioned editorial, which argues that "medicalising" such a normal human emotion is "not only dangerously simplistic, but also flawed".


Doctors tempted to prescribe pills "would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance and empathy", they write.


The editors are worried by moves which appear to categorise extreme emotions as problems that need fixing.


Their fears have been prompted by the publication of a new draft version of the psychiatrists' 'bible', the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM-5.


Although this is not used by NHS psychiatrists, it is still regarded as influential here.


The editors are also concerned about changes proposed by the World Health Organisation, to include a category of "prolonged grief disorder" in its International Classification of Disease (ICD-11). It is used by NHS psychiatrists.


They note the DSM-5 draft contains "no exclusion for bereavement" before diagnosing a "major depressive disorder".


They write that this "means that feelings of deep sadness, loss, sleeplessness, crying, inability to concentrate, tiredness, and no appetite, which continue for more than two weeks after the death of a loved one, could be diagnosed as depression, rather than as a normal grief reaction".


The editorial continues: "Medicalising grief, so that treatment is legitimised routinely with antidepressants, for example, is not only dangerously simplistic, but also flawed.


"The evidence base for treating recently bereaved people with standard antidepressant regimens is absent."


It concludes: "Grief is not an illness; it is more usefully thought of as part of being human and a normal response to death of a loved one...."


Dr Astrid James, deputy editor of The Lancet, said it seemed "far too early" to classify someone as mentally ill two weeks after the death of a loved one.


She added: "We need to be careful not to overmedicalise experiences that are part of normal living, and to make sure we allow people to grieve rather than try and suppress it or treat it."


Professor Sue Bailey, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "The publication of DSM-V will not directly affect diagnosis of mental illness in our health service."

Edited by Altostrata
edited to conform to fair use



I came off Seroxat in August 2005 after a 4 month taper. I was initially prescibed a benzo for several months and then Prozac for 5 years and after that, Seroxat for 3 years and 9 months.


"It's like in the great stories Mr.Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer."  Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers

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Hurray for the courageous British! British psychotherapists were at the forefront of opposition to the DSM-5.

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

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