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Complications that can develop from
grieving include depression, anxiety, suicidal
thoughts, and physical illness. If you or someone you know experiences any of
the following problems, contact a doctor or mental health
professional for counseling, medicine, or both.
Depression is the most common condition that can
develop when a person is grieving. Depression is common in adults who
experience a divorce or death of a spouse.
Anxiety also is common during the grieving process.
But anxiety can last longer than expected. And it can also become intense
and include extreme guilt. Anxiety can:
Sometimes when grieving, people have thoughts of ending their own
lives. If you have been depressed or have had thoughts of suicide in the past, you
may be vulnerable to having suicidal thoughts while grieving.
Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you or someone you know is
Any thoughts of suicide must be taken seriously. The threat of
carrying out the plan is very real if a person is thinking about
Grieving stresses the body, weakens the
immune system, and in general makes us more prone to
illness, aches, and pains. People who have chronic medical conditions may have
a recurrence or their symptoms may get worse when they are grieving. Adults
who lose a loved one sometimes develop new health problems. Children can also have stress-induced physical problems while grieving, despite
their youth and apparent resilience.
People who experience a traumatic loss are at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an
intense emotional and psychological response to a very disturbing or traumatic
event, such as a rape, assault, natural disaster, accident, war, torture, or
death. You can develop PTSD symptoms immediately following such an event. Or PTSD
may develop months or even years later.
Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder may include:
Counseling and medicines (such as antidepressants and antianxiety
medicines) can be helpful for people who have post-traumatic stress
Complicated grief is a syndrome of acute grief and anxiety lasting 6
or more months after the death of a loved one.1
Complicated grief may also be called separation trauma, traumatic grief, or
Symptoms of complicated grief include:
Complicated grief is different from post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD). With PTSD, a person is anxious and fearful that the traumatic event
that caused the loss will occur again. In complicated grief, anxiety results
because the person is searching and yearning for his or her loved one.
If you or someone you know has symptoms of complicated grief, seek
help from a professional counselor specializing in grief counseling.
Citations Zisook S, et al. (2009). Death, dying, and
bereavement. In BJ Sadock, VA Sadock, eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2378-2407.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
October 17, 2011
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Sidney Zisook, MD - Psychiatry
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