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S1EP20: The Controversy Around "Prolonged Grief Disorder"

The views expressed in this blog post and accompanying podcast episode are solely our own and are not based on science.

Pensive woman looking out at water

The recent addition of a controversial new disorder to the diagnostic criteria by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has been making waves in the mental health community. As hosts of this podcast, we want to express our strong disagreement with the labeling of grief as a diagnosable mental health condition. In this episode, we're going to delve into the main points from our conversation, where we question the concept of pathologizing grief and explore potential commercial interests behind this new diagnosis.

The APA's Introduction of Prolonged Grief Disorder

First and foremost, let's take a closer look at the APA's definition of prolonged grief disorder, which is defined by an individual exhibiting grieving symptoms like pining, rumination, and an inability to return to normal activities for at least a year following a loss. This definition has ignited extensive discussions surrounding the psychology of grief and loss, as well as a myriad of ethical concerns.

Is Grief a Disorder or a Natural Human Response?

We firmly believe that grief is a natural and deeply human response to loss, and its expression varies widely from one individual to the next. Attempting to reframe this universal experience as a pathology could inadvertently stigmatize the very act of grieving. Imposing time constraints on this emotional journey may come across as insensitive and arbitrary.

Grief vs. Depression: A Delicate Distinction

One of our key concerns pertains to the fine line between grief and depression. These emotions are intertwined, yet they represent distinct experiences. This raises the important question: why classify prolonged grief as a separate diagnosis instead of categorizing it under the broader umbrella of depression? We suspect that this may be a manifestation of medicalization, where non-medical issues are recast as medical problems.

The Arbitrary 12-Month Benchmark

From our perspective, the 12-month time frame seems arbitrary and detached from the reality of how grief affects individuals. Grief's impact varies significantly depending on the nature of the loss and the available support systems. For some, a year might be an insufficient period to process a profound loss, while for others, grief might ebb and flow over the course of many years.

Pharmaceutical Companies: A Potential Hidden Agenda

Another aspect of this discussion revolves around the influence of pharmaceutical companies. It's hard to ignore the profit motive, and we can't help but question whether the creation of "prolonged grief disorder" is an attempt to open up new markets for medications rather than allowing the natural grieving process to unfold.

The Right to Grieve in One's Own Time

Throughout our conversation, we emphasized the importance of validating grief without labeling it as a disease. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to grieving, and a universal timeline simply doesn't exist. Our podcast's mission is to explore and normalize the diverse ways in which people experience and cope with grief.

In conclusion, it's crucial to recognize that people's reactions to this new APA classification will be influenced by their personal experiences and perspectives. While scientific research and understanding are undeniably valuable, we must approach sensitive subjects like grief with sensitivity and respect, acknowledging the rich tapestry of human emotions.

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