Monday, April 22, 2013

Is Grief an Adjustment Disorder?

by Kate Collins

I'm appalled.

Apparently, grieving over the loss of my husband qualifies me to be labeled as having an "Adjustment Disorder." 

Seriously! That's what it says in the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) diagnostic "bible" – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders – which will soon be released.

Here are the qualifications:

"Following the death of a close family member or close friend, the individual experiences on more days than not intense yearning or longing for the deceased, intense sorrow and emotional pain, or preoccupation with the deceased or the circumstances of the death for at least 12 months (or 6 months for children). The person may also display difficulty accepting the death, intense anger over the loss, a diminished sense of self, a feeling that life is empty, or difficulty planning for the future or engaging in activities or relationships."

Hello! I went through at least 12 months of that. Those are normal reactions to the death of a loved one. Ask anyone who has gone through it, or anyone who leads a grief support group.

But you see, if grief is normal, then a psychiatrist can’t prescribe a drug for it.

Considering that close to 2.5 million Americans die each year, and the number of people experiencing grief as a result of those deaths is far higher than that, a lot of money can be made from pushing drugs for grief.

Of course there are people who sink into a dangerous depression and may need something to boost their mood temporarily, but that’s not the majority. The loss of someone you love hurts like hell. You can’t dull your senses with drugs to get over it because you don’t get over losing someone close to you. You just learn to move through it and go on. That scar over your heart isn’t going to disappear because a psychiatrist gives you an anti-depressant. Everyone has to deal with grief sooner or later and the longer it’s delayed, the more that person’s life is stuck in a holding pattern.

Want to really get scared? In this new “bible” grief isn’t all that they’re labeling as needing drugs. Consider these “diseases”:
       Do you shop too much? You might have Compulsive Shopping Disorder.
       Do you have a difficult time with multiplication? You could be suffering from Dyscalculia.
       Spending too much time at the gym? You'd better see someone for your Bigorexia or Muscle Dysmorphia.
       And my favorite—are your terrified by the number 13? You could have Triskaidekaphobia!

  I’m just hoping there isn’t a disease for not being able to do algebra.

Have a happy week.