Prolonged Grief disorder may soon be considered a mental health disorder. The test standard criteria was developed by Dana-Farber, a Cancer Institute researcher in Boston. She based her claim on the observation of bereavement and mood/anxiety disorders. Further research was done on widowers and widows by a team of experts.
This does not identify grieving as unnatural or unhealthy because mourning is a process, which manifests itself in many different shapes and forms. However, prolonged grief disorder, which causes psychological distress, can create consequential disability that could be associated with health risks such as cancer, elevated rates of suicide, hypertension, heart problem, immunological dysfunction, and other adverse health behaviors.
The good news is, talk therapy may help the griever cope with the loss, which is why diagnosis is important to assist those in need for the right kind of support.
The grieving process
Grief is a universal human experience. For many people, crying is an important part of grieving and the lack of tears doesn’t necessarily mean the grieving process is gone. It’s perfectly normal if you feel like crying, and you need space to grieve in your own way, as long as you deal with the feelings appropriately.
However, if you can handle your daily activities, and you are isolating yourself, you should seek the help of a grief counselor who might suggest behavior therapies to help re-establish your direction in life. The grieving process takes time, but unresolved grief can lead to depression.
Most experts would agree that everyone experiences a series of distinctive feelings, and everyone may go through the stages in a different order to find healing and comfort.
Prolonged grief was once an emotion, but in the new summary which appears in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM), it has become a symptom for a disorder, and for people who grieve intensely for prolonged periods.
The DSM-5 scheduled for publication this year, will likely contain bereavement-related disorder, and goes by different names: like complex grief, pathological grief, traumatic grief, and complicated grief, according to Dr. Katherine Shear, the Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry at the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City, New York.
Shear says, that the primary advantage of adding complicated grief to the DSM is to spur development of treatment. While certain people process grief rather differently than others, if you are not over a loss after a few months, a diagnosis will formalize that to show little tolerance to grief, says Dr. Leeat Granek, an assistant professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
Prolonged grief treatment
Controversies in the treatment for prolonged grief still abound, but the recent findings highlight the fact that grief therapy is effective when targeted to child and adult grievers with elevated distress levels, and not as a universal intervention.
Although pharmacotherapy, family-based, Internet-based, and preventive intervention has shown initial promise, no sufficient data can validate the efficacy. However, therapies employing cognitive-behavioral techniques have shown a robust effect.
Researchers and experts in Massachusetts and France believe that while a pharmacologic approach is still scarce at this time, randomized trial to test the efficacy of pharmacological agents in the treatment is needed.
Ultimately, prolonged grief will soon be identified as a mental health disorder.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas