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Intense Sadness Normal After Loss

Study Questions Criteria for Depression Diagnosis After Loss

Normal Grief or Depression? continued...

"But for some individuals ... if they're not having particularly severe or dangerous symptoms such as suicidal thoughts or total lack of functioning ... it may be prudent to simply observe and wait and see if the symptoms start going away of their own accord," he says.

There's nothing wrong with seeking support after loss, Wakefield notes.

"Even people who are feeling like they are proportionally and reasonably responding to some horrible life losses may want to take medication or at least get some other kind of supportive treatment or psychotherapeutic treatment in order to help them deal with their feelings and suffer less and prevent it from developing, which it sometimes does, into a genuine clinical depression," Wakefield says.

He points out that there are many treatments for depression. The study doesn't make treatment recommendations.

Second Opinion

"I think it's an important study, probably more than anything else for consciousness-raising," Dan Blazer, MD, PhD, tells WebMD.

Blazer is the J.P. Gibbons Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Duke University Medical School. He wasn't involved in Wakefield's study.

Blazer says the study "does help us back off from our tendency to want to label people and then feel like a treatment necessarily follows the way we label them."

"I think this article says one should be a little cautious in assuming that a person meeting criteria for a diagnosis actually may be going through something abnormal. Their response may be totally normal at the time," Blazer says.

"But on the other hand, whenever somebody is going through emotional suffering, we have to be very careful and watch it. If it's extreme, it needs to be dealt with," Blazer says.

"People generally get better over time. If they do not get better, that's a danger sign," he says.

Study's Limits

Participants were only studied once. "We don't know what happens to these people over time; we're just getting a snapshot," Blazer says.

He also notes that no one older than 54 was included in the data and that the survey only asked one question about bereavement.

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