Can bereavement cause mental illness? 

Bereavement can cause various types of mental illness, in particular when the loss is a traumatic one.  

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as:  

“a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

So if you're having trouble with any of those things, which many of us take for granted, then your mental health has been adversely affected.  This is particularly common after a bereavement.

The grief caused by many types of loss, including not just the death of a family member or friend, but divorce, miscarriage, job loss, loss of home, retirement or illness, can be a huge stressor for the body and the mind.  If grief is not processed normally, or goes on for a prolonged period of time it can tip over into mental illness.

According to the journal 'Depression and Anxiety', approximately 10% of the bereaved who lose a loved one suffer severe or chronic grief.  

Types of mental illness that can be caused by grief include: 

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • complicated grief disorder (traumatic or prolonged grief) 
  • post traumatic stress disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder
  • alcohol or drug abuse

In addition, any pre-existing mental disorders, which may have been under control, may become worse after a bereavement.  These might include:

  • eating disorders,
  • personality disorders
  • or a relapse into drug or alcohol abuse or gambling. 

Those who already have problems with substance abuse have been reported to be at greater risk of complicated grief.  At the same time, those struggling with post traumatic stress, or complicated grief may be at greater risk of using alcohol or drugs and becoming addicted.  

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Of course many of these conditions can also overlap.  For example how is complicated grief different from depression?  The main difference, of course, is that depression caused by grief has an obvious cause. Both can be treated with anti-depressants, but you may to have to wait a few months after a bereavement before a doctor would want to prescribe them.  

Grief is a normal reaction to loss and takes time to process.  It is normal to be sad and anxious, and it is sometimes difficult to determine when normal grief tips over into a mental illness.  

However, if, after several months, you are not able to get back into your normal routine and don't feel that you are coping, it might be a good idea to seek help. 

You can read about when it is advisable to seek help here.   

Studies have shown that cognitive therapies originally developed for depression and post traumatic stress disorder are also effective at helping those with complicated grief.  Read more about these studies here.  

We have partnered with BetterHelp who have expert psychologists and counselors who will be able to help you.  They provide a confidential online service.  You can read more about online counseling and how it works here.  

Where to get help: 

Have You Considered One-on-One Online Grief Counseling? 

Get Expert and Effective Help in the Comfort of Your Own Home

The following information about online counseling is sponsored by 'Betterhelp' but all the opinions are our own. To be upfront, we do receive a commission when you sign up with 'Betterhelp', but we have total faith in their expertise and would never recommend something we didn't completely approve.  

Do you feel alone and sad with no support and no idea how to move forward?  It can be tough when you are stuck in grief to find the motivation to get the most out of your precious life. 

Online counseling can help by giving you that support so you don't feel so alone. You can have someone to talk to anytime you like, a kind and understanding person who will help you to find meaning in life again, to treasure the memories of your loved one without being overwhelmed and to enjoy your activities, family and friends again.

  • Simply fill out the online questionnaire and you will be assigned the expert grief counselor most suitable for you.  It only takes a few minutes and you don't even have to use your name.  
  • Pay an affordable FLAT FEE FOR UNLIMITED SESSIONS.  
  • Contact your counselor whenever you like by chat, messaging, video or phone. 
  • You can change counselor at any time if you wish.
  • Click here to find out more and get started immediately.
  • Or read more about how online counseling works here.  
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Hypnosis for Grief - 10 Ways It Can Help You

Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind. Learn how self-hypnosis can help you cope with grief at any time of the day or night.  

Read more about it here. 

Related Pages: 

Can bereavement cause depression?

Can bereavement cause OCD? 

Can bereavement cause PTSD? 

For Remembrance: 

Sales from our pages result in a small commission to us which helps us to continue our work supporting the grieving.  

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Our free downloadable and printable document "The 10 Most Important Things You Can Do To Survive Your Grief And Get On With Life" will help you to be positive day to day.  

The 10 points are laid out like a poem on two pretty pages which you can pin on your fridge door to help you every day! 

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