Is Grief a Mental Illness or Part of Life?

There was a lot of controversy over how grief and depression are lumped together in the May 2013 DSM-5 book; that is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” used by psychiatrists and other professionals.

Concern and disagreement were brought to the forefront as some professionals felt the inclusion of grief and sadness as a component of depression gives the medical and psychiatric industry an easier, sanctioned way to dispense medications when grief becomes too much to for a person to handle.

The sadness and sorrow of grief can look similar to the sadness associated with depression.  The dilemma arises when determining if someone experiencing the loss of a loved one is grieving or needs to be diagnosed as depressed?

In most cases the depression, sadness and symptoms of grief such as sleeplessness, fatigue, isolation and difficulty concentrating to name a few, subside over time.

With depression, many symptoms stay constant.  The pain of grief gradually changes and comes in bursts or waves.  This is only a snippet of the information being dispersed about the changes for categorizing different illnesses.

Some professionals feel that “BIG” pharmacies are out to make a BIG buck.

I do not diagnose mental/medical conditions or prescribe medications, but from the numerous conversation I have had with clients, there seem to be positive and negatives to being prescribed medications for grief.  Some individuals have stated that once off the medication, their grief that seemed to subside then came back as if they were at the beginning of their loss experience. 

I found it interesting the number of clients given prescriptions for grief never filled them or never took the medications.  Concerns about becoming addicted to medications and feeling numb to life were a few reasons they shared.  As always, grieving people do whatever it takes to handle the situation.  There is no right or wrong judgment required.

Everyone is unique in their grief experiences.

For interest purposes, I have included a few websites to view for more information on this topic and I am certain you can search for more.

  • “When did life itself become a treatable mental disorder?”  ByPatricia Pearson Published Saturday, Apr. 27 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

Retrieved July 10, 2023 from;

  • “DSM-5: When Grief And Depression Mingle”, By: Wynne Parry

Still applicable on July 10, 2023  Originally Retrieved May 27, 2013 from;

All my best

Barbara Gillett Saunders

Grief Counsellor/Thanatologist