Grief and depression share similar symptoms: sadness, tears, lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping. It is easy to mistake one for the other. When people experience major upheavels–such as the death of a loved one or pet, a move to a different community, or dealing with a life-threatening illness in a loved one or yourself—it is common to shut down.
Although few people mourning a loss experience clinical depression, sometimes these major life events can trigger a major depressive episode. It can difficult to determine when grief becomes depression. Here are some ways to tell, according to Karen Swartz, MD, Director of Clinical Programs at the Johns Hopkins Moods Disorders Center in a Depression & Anxiety Bulletin.
- The sadness of grief comes in waves with different varying degrees of intensity and bouts of crying, and feelings of intense sadness, guilt, anger, irritability, or loneliness.
- A grieving person, however, can enjoy some of life’s activities.
- Grief is generally time limited and resolves on its own.
- Depression is more persistent and constant sadness. Depressed persons have a consistent inability to enjoy pleasurable life activities.
- Depression is marked by “muted” or “deadened” feelings.
- When successful, mourning entails a gradual shift from painful thoughts to positive ones about the future. Slowly a person begins to enjoy elements of her life again. With depression the pain sticks.
- Symptoms of grief turned depression can include: physical symptoms that mimic the illness or injury of the person who died; overuse of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs; persistent depression; chronic sleep disturbances; inability to carry out normal daily routines; and thoughts of or attempts at suicide.
Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.