'Complicated Grief' far worse than depression and doctors want it recognised

Doctors in the U.S. are hoping that a condition they refer to as 'Complicated Grief' which goes far beyond depression, will soon be recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

They say a good example is David Golebiewski, who, in the months after his 19-year-old daughter was killed in a car crash, was totally consumed by grief.

Golebiewski was suffering from "complicated grief", which rendered him unable to go to the restaurant where his daughter had worked, and he spent five hours a day in Internet chat rooms with other parents who had also lost children.

Doctors say the condition is more severe than grief and different from depression, and affects as many as 1 million people a year.

Dr. Katherine Shear, a psychiatry professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, says with complicated grief, the usual feelings of disbelief, loss and anguish do not go away, and eventually affect every part of a person's life.

If left untreated complicated grief can lead to depression, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and even heart disease.

Dr. Holly Prigerson, director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Center for Psycho-Oncology and Palliative Care Research and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says the term has been used for about 10 years, but unlike a lot of disorders following bereavement, including depression, it persists for years and becomes a chronic distressed state of mind.

Prigerson says researchers estimate that 10 percent to 15 percent of the surviving relatives of people who die naturally experience complicated grief, and people who lose someone they were emotionally dependent on are at greatest risk.

Prigerson is working to get the disorder recognized in the American Psychiatric Association's next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which will be published in 2012.

Dr. Michael First, a Columbia University psychiatry professor and member of a committee that will decide what goes into the DSM, said the panel will consider whether complicated grief merits its own designation.

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