NPR aired an interesting story (“Is Emotional Pain Necessary?“) this morning about whether depression can be part of grief and therefore treated. Apparently, physicians are discouraged from diagnosing individuals grieving the death of a loved one with major depression; it’s called a “bereavement exclusion.”
“The idea was that feelings of intense pain were normal, so they shouldn’t be labeled as a mental disorder,” explains NPR reporter Alix Spiegel.
The American Psychiatric Association may change this in the latest edition of “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, still in rough draft form. NPR reports:
“Dr. Kenneth Kendler, who is on the committee that decided to make this change, says it’s not that the committee feels everyone who has a loss should immediately be diagnosed with depression. For Kendler, there is a clear, bright line between normal grief and clinical depression. Grief is OK — depression is not. Depression, by definition, is dangerous and should be treated. Grief is normal and should not.”
Ah. That’s the sticky wicket. The report goes on to ask the million dollar question: “Does going through intense emotional pain make you emotionally healthier later by allowing you to emotionally process your loss?”
What do you think? Does the intensity of the feelings you experience in caregiving help you process the pain? When you look back at a particularly devastating time in caregiving (first learning of a diagnosis, for instance), do you feel emotionally healthier for having had that experience?
Or, would you have preferred a diagnosis and a treatment (such as medication)?