Grief and depression are two terms that often get confused to mean the same thing. They are often used interchangeably which is also incorrect. It’s important to know the difference between the two as grief is generally what’s considered a normal reaction to a major loss, and depression is generally what indicates the development of a mood disorder. While they are different, both grief and depression have many similarities. It is also important to be able to distinguish the two as the approaches to help an individual cope with each is different.
A key factor in recognizing depression versus grief is that clinical depression typically involves persistent sadness most of the day nearly every day. Symptoms of depression must be present nearly every day for at least two weeks. What separates depression from grief comes down to intensity and duration of symptoms experienced. You will find that with depression the symptoms experienced tend to persist with no relief. With grief many symptoms will decrease over time and occur intermittently through triggers by thoughts or reminders of its cause. Grief is the body’s way of working through loss. Every person grieves differently. While grief can be experienced for a significant period of time, the individual is able to find relief and able to have good days along with any bad days.
A big difference between depression and grief is how each can be treated. Grief does not necessarily require therapeutic treatment although therapy can be very helpful in coping with the grief process and promoting healing. Depression is typically treated with psychotherapy and/or medication due to the severity of the diagnosis. If you think you are suffering from depression or are not sure if you are depressed or just suffering from grief, please see a mental health provider. Depression left untreated can lead to dangerous consequences including self harm and/or suicide. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the problem as well as the source and make the best recommendation for treatment. Reaching out for help when you are experiencing depression symptoms is a sign of strength and can help get you on the road to effective treatment.
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