The normal process of grieving can become complicated grief when your symptoms show no signs of improvement over time.
Grieving is a highly individual process for each person, and determining when normal grief becomes complicated grief can be difficult. There's currently no consensus among mental health experts about how much time must pass before complicated grief can be diagnosed.
Complicated grief may be considered when the intensity of grief has not decreased in the months following your loved one's death. Some mental health professionals diagnose complicated grief when grieving continues to be intense, persistent and debilitating beyond six months.
There are many similarities between complicated grief and major depression, but there are also distinct differences. In some cases, clinical depression and complicated grief occur together. Getting the correct diagnosis is essential for appropriate treatment.
Your mental health professional may consider you to have complicated grief based on these criteria. You experience:
Sep. 13, 2014
- The death of someone close to you
- A lack of any improvement in your symptoms over time
- A significant impact on your ability to function in daily life
- Conditions for further study: Persistent complex bereavement disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Aug. 14, 2014.
- Block SD. Grief and bereavement. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 14, 2014.
- Shear MK, et al. Complicated grief and related bereavement issues for DSM-5. Depression and Anxiety. 2011;28:103.
- Coping with the loss of a loved one. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/emotionalsideeffects/griefandloss/coping-with-the-loss-of-a-loved-one-intro-to-grief-mourning-bereavement. Accessed Aug. 4, 2014.
- Grief, bereavement, and coping with loss (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/bereavement/HealthProfessional. Accessed Aug. 14, 2014.
- Shear MK. Grief and mourning gone awry: Pathway and course of complicated grief. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2012;14:119.
- Simon NM. Treating complicated grief. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2013;31:416.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.