Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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:

  • 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
Sept. 13, 2014