Grief or Depression? How to identify what you are going through?

Thursday, 8 October 2020

While we all feel sad, moody, or low from time to time, some people experience these feelings intensely, for long periods (weeks, months or even years) and sometimes without any apparent reason. Depression is more than just a low mood – it’s a severe condition that can affect physical and mental health.


There are many beautiful and uplifting things in life, but there is also loss. Losing a loved one can trigger intense feelings of grief. For some people, this grief can lead to depression or make underlying depression worse.


Grief and depression share similar symptoms, but each is a distinct experience, and making the distinction is essential for several reasons. With depression, getting a diagnosis and seeking treatment can be lifesaving. At the same time, experiencing grief due to a significant loss is not only expected but can ultimately be very healing.


How grief differs from depression


You can expect to grieve and feel sad after a loss, but prolonged feelings of sadness and hopelessness could mean that you have depression. Whether you’re experiencing grief or depression or both, many approaches can help you heal with time.


Everyone grieves differently. Some people may have symptoms that are very similar to depression, such as withdrawal from social settings and intense feelings of sadness. However, there are significant differences between depression and grief:


Symptom duration


People with depression feel depressed almost all the time. Grieving people often have symptoms that fluctuate or come in waves.


Acceptance of support


People with depression often begin to isolate themselves and may even shun others. People who are grieving may avoid vibrant social settings, but they usually accept some support from loved ones.


Ability to function


Someone who is grieving may still be able to go to work or school. They may even feel that participating in these activities will help occupy their mind. However, if you are clinically depressed, you may experience symptoms so severe that you’re unable to go to work or do other essential tasks.


Grief is a typical, expected set of emotions that can occur after the loss of a loved one. However, some people experience a more significant and longer-lasting level of grief, that is known as complicated grief.


Getting the Right Treatment for Your Needs


Diagnosis is so important because it leads directly to treatment. A differential diagnosis is the careful selection of one or more conditions as the most accurate diagnosis for a patient when there are overlapping symptoms. The outcomes from treatment depend on its accuracy.


A study that investigated how to improve the treatment of depression found that one of the most significant things clinicians can do is make an accurate differential diagnosis. According to the study, patients received more effective treatment and had better outcomes when healthcare workers considered a broad range of potential diagnoses, including depression, complicated grief, and other mental illnesses.


Insist on a thorough evaluation to get the best diagnosis. If you are not happy with the diagnosis you get, consider a second opinion. It is your right to see other doctors or to see other members of the same treatment team. Your first step in overcoming difficult symptoms and getting function back in your life is to find out if you have depression, complicated grief, or some other combination of mental illness.


Normal grief benefits from good support from loved ones but does not require professional treatment. Complicated grief and depression do need treatment, but strategies are not the same. If you are diagnosed with complicated grief, residential treatment with therapy will be the main focus. Therapy will help you face your loss, process it, and learn to function and enjoy life again.


Depression can also be treated in a residential setting and benefits from therapy. But, while complicated grief can be resolved, depression is chronic. Residential care with therapy and medication, if appropriate, will prepare you for lifelong management of this mental illness.


Grief is a difficult time for anyone, but for some, it gets worse. If you—or someone you care about—have been grieving for several months and you aren’t feeling any better, can’t function at home or work, have lost interest in things you once enjoyed, feel consistently depressed, sad or guilty, or you don’t feel right, reach out for help. You may have depression or complicated grief, and with an accurate diagnosis, treatment can help.


The My Grief Assist website can take you to a valuable site with additional resources and fact sheets which may be of great assistance.


If you require any additional support, please call us on 1800 118 188.