Undoubtedly, you have experienced loss in your lifetime: loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a spouse through divorce, or loss of a lifestyle. Perhaps you went through the grieving process, but now it has been many months or years since the event and you are still dealing with very difficult emotions that feel more like depression. Is this normal? Is there anything you can do?
What is grief?
Grief is a short-term state following a loss that typically manifests as sadness, anger, irritability, difficulty accepting what happened, and difficulty eating or sleeping. These feelings are usually triggered by an event or memory associated with the loss rather than being pervasive all the time. During the grieving process, which is sometimes described as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, you can still feel happy and connect with people.
The stress associated with grief can sometimes cause physical illnesses or ailments, and if grief persists longer than a few weeks or months after the loss, it can develop into a depression disorder. Mourning resolves itself with time, but depression requires further treatment.
What is depression?
Depression is a long-term state that could stem from previous trauma, genetic predisposition, or substance abuse and typically manifests as guilt, worthlessness, sluggishness, difficulty doing daily activities, persistent overwhelming emotions, and sometimes suicidal ideation. These feelings could be triggered by an event or memory or they could come on with no warning. People suffering from depression often feel ashamed that they are dealing with these emotions or they don’t recognize their depression as anything out of the ordinary.
The best way to treat depression symptoms is to seek professional help. If you are experiencing grief that you feel might have developed into depression, reach out to a therapist in your area or your physician to discuss ways to begin treatment.
How are they similar?
Grief and depression share some similar symptoms such as: intense sadness, difficulty sleeping, difficulty eating, and brief hallucinations or delusions. It can be difficult to distinguish between grief and depression in the weeks or months after a loss, but if the symptoms persist longer than you feel your grieving process would have lasted, get in touch with a trained therapist to discuss how you are feeling.
How are they different?
The length of time the symptoms last is the main way of distinguishing between grief and depression, but the intensity of the symptoms are also typically different. When someone is experiencing grief, they can have intense emotions when remembering something about the loss, once these emotions pass, the person is able to have happy memories and interact normally with those around them. However, someone suffering from depression is usually not capable of interacting normally or feeling positive emotions.
What should I do?
Most likely, if you have made it this far into this article, you are concerned for yourself or a loved one who is experiencing grief and/or depression. It can be overwhelming in itself to try to figure out what is going on and what you should do about it, so why not just reach out to a professional who is trained in helping people navigate grief and/or depression? There are passionate therapists all over the country, but at Novus Counseling and Recovery Center in Long Beach, California, we would love to take your hand and walk beside you through this process, providing you with the resources you need to start feeling like yourself again.