The fundamental message here is that research indicates that up to forty per cent of people undergoing a normal grief reaction will also simultaneously develop depressive illness.  Because we understand why someone is distressed, we should not be blinded to the possibility that some of their distress actually arises from an illness brought about by the same event.


After the death of someone close to us, the normal human reaction is to be very distressed, cry, be difficult to console, perhaps be very irritable and perhaps be looking for somebody to blame.  Some people are surprisingly calm, and it may be that they are too emotionally numb as a result of their loss to display much emotion at this point in time.


The next phase in a grief reaction is a period of weeks or months in which many people feel a sense of despair, hopelessness and intense sadness.  This is a normal reaction, and over a number of months, the sadness becomes less persistent, and we are able to accept what has happened.  We may never forget the person who has died, but we are able to continue with our normal lives.


However, depression is a stress-induced illness, and the death of someone close to us is one of the most serious stresses we will ever face.  It is not surprising that research indicates that about forty per cent of people, when faced with this stress, will undergo a breakdown in their internal chemistry, resulting in them developing depressive illness.  It is in fact very difficult to decide when a person has developed depressive illness in this situation.


The core issue in deciding whether or not you or someone close to you has developed depressive illness as a result of a grief reaction is whether or not your emotional pain is subsiding within a reasonable period of time.  If, three or four months after the death, you are continuing to be very distressed, have a lot of trouble eating, have severe trouble sleeping, and if you still cannot focus your mind on things you have to do, it is increasingly likely that you have been pushed into depressive illness, not just grief, as a result of the death.


Treatment of depressive illness at this stage will considerably reduce your suffering, and will allow the normal grief process to continue, to the stage where you will be able to accept the death.  In contrast, not having treatment for your depressive illness at this time increases the risks that your depressive illness will continue for a long period of time, and increases the risk that your emotional life and relationships with others will be permanently damaged by the death that has taken place.


Important Disclaimer:  This site is medical information only, and is not to be taken as diagnosis, advice or treatment, which can only be decided by your own doctor.

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