In spite of what many believe, grief and depression are not the same thing. Rather, "ordinary grief", or bereavement, is a temporary reaction to loss that may, or may not, require therapy. Clinical depression, on the other hand, is a psychological disorder that almost always necessitates treatment.
What's more, according to Dr. Ronald Pies in his World of Psychology article, The Two Worlds of Grief and Depression, "Many clinicians still find it hard to disentangle grief and depressions, inspiring countless debates over 'where to draw theline' between normality and psychopathology."
In the same article, he goes on to present his views on the meaning of "grief" and offers his theories on ways clinicians can more accurately determine if their patients are suffering from grief or depression.
For example, he asserts that people who are clinically depressed usually have more difficultly performing normal daily activities than those suffering with grief. Moreover, he says, "Typically, the depressed person's thoughts are almost uniformly gloomy. If an optimist sees life through rose-colored glasses, the depressed person sees the world 'through a glass darkly."
Overall, I agree with Dr. Pies' conclusions and have learned in my own practice to consider a variety of observational, conversational and behavioral criteria before diagnosing and treating my patients for grief or depression.
By Kathleen Dwyer-Blair, LCSW, BCD, Director
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