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