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Ways to differentiate grief from depression

depressed man sitting on a wooden bench

If you or someone you know has recently suffered the loss of a loved one, it is not uncommon to go through the emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing symptoms of grief. This is especially true in circumstances that require a wrongful death attorney as sudden loss can be especially harrowing. 

However, there may be times when you question whether it’s the normal grieving process or clinical depression. That’s a normal concern, which is why it’s important to know the difference and how can you differentiate between grief and depression?

Grief is a Normal Process

The process known as grief is a normal and natural human response to any loss but is unique to each individual. Each person might experience any number of emotional, cognitive, behavioral, physical, and spiritual reactions throughout the grieving process. Some more common symptoms are experienced with varying degrees in most people.

Signs and Symptoms of Grief

Some of the natural responses to a loss are changes in appetite, sleep habits, and routines. You may go through periods of extreme anger, loneliness, and sadness, along with difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and loss of interest in things you usually cared about. You may avoid social interactions and neglect taking care of yourself or your normal household chores.

Depression is Much More Dangerous

Depression on the other hand is a clinical condition that should be evaluated and diagnosed by a medical professional. For a person to be diagnosed, certain symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. Among those are a depressed mood or irritability, loss of interest in activities, disruptive sleep patterns, and loss of appetite and weight loss.

In addition to those symptoms that are similar to grief, a depressed individual may have strong feelings of morbidity, worthlessness or guilt, extreme sluggishness, indecisiveness, and difficulty concentrating, significant impairment to thoughts or actions, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. As you can see, unlike normal grief, depression can be deadly.

Differences

Grief and depression are similar in many ways, but the main difference is that grief usually decreases over time, even though it may come back occasionally when a person is reminded of the event which caused the grief in the first place, such as the anniversary of a loved one’s passing. In contrast, depression is more constant and overwhelming in a person’s life.

It is possible that a person could be experiencing grief and depression at the same time. If you find that you or a loved one is grieving, but there is a feeling of being stuck or an inability to cope with daily life, it’s a good idea to seek help immediately from a physician or health provider. Clinical depression is typically treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy. 

Grief isn’t usually treated with medication, but many people find it helpful to reach out to bereavement groups that specialize in helping people going through the grieving process. There is also a great number of online services and phone hotlines available to help those dealing with a loss to get through the process.