Grief and Depression: How to Tell the Difference
Intensity and length of time are the primary differences between grief and depression.
Grief is the loss of someone or some living thing that has died. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, grief also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions. When people are grieving, they have intermittent breaks of humor and can relate to others amidst their sadness. They continue to be engaged with the people in their lives and can envision a future.
Depression is not based on how long someone is missing and mourning a loved one on the presence and intensity of physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms a month or longer after experiencing a loss. Depression causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how people feel, think, and behave and can lead to emotional and physical problems. Clinically depressed people lack energy and resilience to take positive steps to improve the future.
Depression is not grief. It is impossible to grieve when someone is depressed. So, just how do you differentiate between normal bereavement and depression? Keep an eye open for these symptoms:
Grief symptoms include
- Sadness that a loved one’s gone but relieved that they’re at peace
- Yearning for a spouse after a divorce but also excitement that they get another shot at love
- Guilt for feeling grateful that they no longer must provide exhausting around-the-clock care for a dying relative
- Upset stomach
- Heart palpitations
- Weak muscles or joint pain
- Tightness in your chest or throat
- Having reduced or increased appetite
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much
Clinic depression symptoms include
- Relentless feelings of gloom and hopelessness
- Chronic ruminating thoughts
- Eating and sleeping problems
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and relating to others
- Feeling numb and acting detached
- Unable to enjoy any of their previous sources of pleasure
- Destructive thoughts and behaviors
Neither situation is hopeless. People who are grieving often have feelings of guilt, anger, and ambivalence, but these can be resolved in psychotherapy. After depressed people take medicine, then they can address the underlying feelings of mourning and sadness. Both can have positive outcomes.