Redefining process of mourning – Proposal would label grief a mental disorder

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Courtesy of Citizens Commission on Human Rights:
Human grief could soon be diagnosed as a mental  disorder under a proposal critics fear could lead to mood-altering pills being  pushed for “mourning.”
“This is a disaster,” says Frances, a renowned U.S. psychiatrist who chaired the task force that wrote the current edition of the DSM

Psychiatrists charged with revising the official “bible” of mental  illness are recommending changes that would make it easier for doctors to  diagnose major depression in the newly bereaved.

Instead of having to wait months, the diagnosis could be made two  weeks after the loss of a loved one.

The current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental  Disorders – an influential tome used the world over – excludes people who have  recently suffered a loss from being diagnosed with a major depressive disorder  unless his or her symptoms persist beyond two months. It’s known as the “grief  exclusion,” the theory being that “normal” grief shouldn’t be labelled a mental  disorder.

But in what critics have called a potentially disastrous suggestion  tucked among the proposed changes to the manual, “grief exclusion” would be  eliminated from the DSM.

Proponents argue that major depression is major depression, that it makes  little difference whether it comes on after the loss of a loved one, the loss of  a job, the loss of a marriage or any other major life stressor. Eliminating  “grief exclusion” would help people get treatment sooner than they otherwise  would.

But critics fear that those experiencing completely expectable  symptoms of grief would be labelled mentally “sick.” Dr. Allen Frances says the  proposal would pathologize a normal human emotion and could bring on even wider  prescribing of moodaltering pills.

“This is a disaster,” says Frances, a renowned U.S. psychiatrist who  chaired the task force that wrote the current edition of the DSM, which is now  undergoing its fifth revision. “Say you lose someone you love and two weeks  later you feel sad, can’t sleep well, and have reduced interest, appetite, and  energy. These five symptoms are completely typical of normal grieving, but DSM-5  would instead label you with a mental disorder.”

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