What are some of the ways that a doctor can distinguish grief from depression for patients at the end of life?

Emailz
1
Expert Answers

EricWideraMD (Physician - Geriatrics (Verified) ) - 12 / 11 / 2012

Psychological distress is common, if not universal, in those facing the end of life. Grief is the healthy, adaptive, and highly personalized response to the losses individuals endure as their illness progresses. The response to these losses can be very intense shortly after a loss, but does generally decrease with time.

The manifestations with grief may overlap with more disabling psychiatric disorders such as major depression, however there are important distinctions. Feelings of pervasive hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, guilt, lack of pleasure, and suicidal ideation are present in patients with major depression, but not in those experiencing uncomplicated grief. For individuals diagnosed with depression it is important to seek professional help, as both psychotherapy and antidepressant medications have been shown to be effective treatments even for those near the end of life.

Clinical depression at the end of life is often not diagnosed and not effectively treated. We often hear expressions such as “of course he is depressed, wouldn't you be if you were going to die.” It is true that sadness is quite common in patients who are terminally ill. However, clinical depression is not universal. Most patients are able to experience happiness and find some pleasure in the life that they have left. Only for a smaller group of patients facing the end of life do we see pervasive sadness and despair that indicates a diagnosis of major depression.
Join Now to ask a follow-up question or share your experience!
We'll help guide and support you through treatments.
Similar Questions
What are some of the best ways that a patient can add value and contribute to their support group?
If the patient and family disagree about treatment at end of life, what can the physician do to help resolve the situation?
What are options for how the medical team can initiate a discussion about spirituality with a patient during end of life care?
What are some resources I can use to help find the right doctor?
What are some of the common challenges of communicating with patients from different cultures?
Note: All content on this site is informational and not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with questions regarding your health.
Note: Usernames have been made anonymous and profile images are not shown to protect the privacy of our members.
Flag Content
Please explain why you are flagging this content. Thank you.
Thank you for flagging this content. We will look into it right away.
Give a 'Thank you' to
Close
Talk About Health
Add Answer

Close
1) Question:
2) Background Info (optional): What context or background information is relevant to this request?
Notes:
The more clear and thorough your request, the more likely you will receive support.
Many of our members are learning from this information or english might not be their first language. Please use standard english and spell out all words. For example, use 'you' instead of 'u'.
Close
Talk About Health
Please join TalkAboutHealth and you will be able to ask questions.
Newsletters
Close
Subscribe to our free updates for the latest news, best answers and featured experts!
Your Email:
Q&A Workshop Announcements
(Featured experts, answers, tips, & latest news.)
Q&A Workshop Summaries
(Answer summaries from our expert Q&A workshops.)
Best of TalkAboutHealth (weekly)
(The week's best answers, news & support.)
TalkAboutHealth Benefits
(Custom health, wellness & medical promotions from our partners.)

Partners become a partner

© Copyright 2018 - Talk About Health - Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
x Don't show again
Like us on Facebook?