Psychiatry’s New Rules Threaten to Turn Grieving Into a Sickness
A controversial change to official psychiatric guidelines for depression has raised fears that grief over the death of loved ones will be classified as clinical depression, turning a basic part of what it means to be human into a recognized sickness.
The change, contained in new revisions to the DSM-5, a set of standards used to categorize mental illness, eliminates the so-called bereavement exclusion, which exempts grieving people from diagnoses of depression for two months unless their symptoms are self-destructively extreme. Under the new standards, depression can be more easily diagnosed just two weeks after a death.
“Virtually everyone who is grieving has milder symptoms of depression. What the bereavement exclusion did is separate the normal responses from the severe ones,” such as feelings of worthlessness or suicidal impulses, said psychiatrist Jerome Wakefield of New York University, who studies bereavement and depression.