The American Psychiatric Association is creating a new grief disorder with which to diagnose the bereaved.
Hard to believe, right?
As if we didn’t have a plethora of diagnoses hanging over our heads already, we’re now having another one thrown at us: ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’.
For those who are new to the DSM-5, let me explain. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition) is the handbook used by health care professionals the world over.
It’s a huge tome in which all mental disorders are described and classified so as to facilitate diagnosis. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Whilst I don’t wish to detract from the valuable work done by the committee in helping patients who do struggle with mental health, I do reject their view that grief is a mental disorder.
Grief is, and always will be, a natural, adaptive, and deeply personal response to the death of someone we love.
The article ruffled some feathers and I felt it only correct I respond a week later with An Open Letter.
And yet here we are again.
Am I surprised? No.
Am I concerned. Absolutely.
Here’s the lowdown:
PROPOSED DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA: PROLONGED GRIEF DISORDER
The death of a person close to the bereaved at least 12 months previously.
Since the death, there has been a grief response characterized by intense yearning/longing for the deceased person or a preoccupation with thoughts or memories of the deceased person. This response has been present to a clinically significant degree nearly every day for at least the last month.
As a result of the death, at least 3 of the following symptoms have been experienced to a clinically significant degree, nearly every day, for at least the last month:
– Identity disruption (e.g., feeling as though part of oneself has died)
– Marked sense of disbelief about the death
– Avoidance of reminders that the person is dead
– Intense emotional pain (e.g., anger, bitterness, sorrow) related to the death
– Difficulty moving on with life (e.g., problems engaging with friends, pursuing interests, planning for the future)
– Emotional numbness
– Feeling that life is meaningless
– Intense loneliness (i.e., feeling alone or detached from others)
– The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
– The duration of the bereavement reaction clearly exceeds expected social, cultural, or religious norms for the individual’s culture and context.
– The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder.
Good to know that I’m already ‘suffering’ from this soon-to-be mental disorder. I suspect so are many others.
We live in a grief-avoidant society. It’s not our natural response to loss that’s crazy; it’s society’s aversion to our pain that categorizes our grief as a maladaptive response to the death of our child.
So this is a clarion call! The APA has posted the proposal on its website and it is open for public comment until 20th May 2020. Follow the link here.
If you have concerns about the addition of a new diagnosis ‘Prolonged Grief Disorder’ to the Depressive Disorders Chapter, or simply wish to share your own experience of child loss, the online form allows you to do so.
The reality is that it’s up to us to make our views known because no one else is going to.