Prolonged grief is now recognized by the American Psychiatric Association

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‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’ is now recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a real disorder opening doors for more funding and research

  • The American Psychiatric Association now recognizes ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’ as a legitimate ailment
  • The recognition opens the door for more research and resources into treating the the condition
  • Prolonged Grief Disorder is when a person feels grief for longer than a standard period of time after a traumatic event
  • Not all experts agree with the recognition, fearing it is medicalizing a normal human process after loss or tragedy 

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) now recognized ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’ as an official psychiatric ailment, a long sought after change.

America’s most influential organization in the field released its latest edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and added ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’ to its listing.

The manual assists medical professionals, researchers and others in the industry on how to recognize, diagnose and treat certain psychiatric conditions. 

Experts have long called for ‘grief’ to be considered an official disorder when people feel it for longer than usual six month period.

Now with its official inclusion, researchers and medical professionals should have easier access to funds and resources to investigate the condition and its causes.

The American Psychiatric Association now officially considers 'Prolonged Grief Disorder' as a psychiatric ailment, opening the door for further research into and the development of drugs for the condition

The American Psychiatric Association now officially considers ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’ as a psychiatric ailment, opening the door for further research into and the development of drugs for the condition

‘Two hundred expert researchers and practitioners put in countless hours to ensure that the DSM-5-TR is an indispensable contribution to our understanding of mental illness,’ Dr Saul Levin, CEO of the APA said of the manual. 

Discussion about the topic can be traced back to the manual’s release a decade ago, when some experts wanted the condition to be separated from depression and places in its own category.

The condition is described as a person feeling grief for longer than usual after a major life event.

While the loss of a friend, family member or other tragedies will obviously spur feelings of grief in someone, intense grief is not expected to last for more than six months.

For some people, though, crippling, life-altering, feelings of grief can last well beyond that period and start to have longterm negative effects on their life.

‘They were the widows who wore black for the rest of their lives, who withdrew from social contacts and lived the rest of their lives in memory of the husband or wife who they had lost,’ Dr Paul Appelbaum, chair of the steering committee overseeing revisions to the manual, told the New York Times.

‘They were the parents who never got over it, and that was how we talked about them.

‘Colloquially, we would say they never got over the loss of that child.’

Some fear that turning grief into a medical ailment instead of a natural human process can be dangerous, and are against the APA decision

Some fear that turning grief into a medical ailment instead of a natural human process can be dangerous, and are against the APA decision

Some studies have even found that while people grieving did enter a better mental state after taking drugs like antidepressants, the medication did little to alleviate their grief. 

Not all agree with this change, though. Grief is a normal part of human life, and feeling it after a great loss or other traumatic event is not anything odd.

‘I completely, utterly disagree that grief is a mental illness,’ Joanne Cacciatore, an associate professor of social work at Arizona State University, told the Times. 

Some fear that pharmaceutical companies will use this as an excuse to start pushing medication on to people who are going through a normal, healthy, process

Other experts believe that it could make people feel unsettled or uncertain about the process.

‘When someone who is a quote-unquote expert tells us we are disordered and we are feeling very vulnerable and feeling overwhelmed, we no longer trust ourselves and our emotions,’ Cacciatore said. 

‘To me, that is an incredibly dangerous move, and short sighted.’ 

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