By Dr. Mercola
After the death of a loved one, do you think you'd feel (or if you've lost a loved one already, did you feel) back to your old self again in just two weeks? For nearly everyone, the answer is a resounding no.
Grief is a highly individual experience, but for most people it takes two to six months to "run its course" – and sometimes much longer, all of which is normal and to be expected in the face of a significant loss.
Outrageously, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is now considering characterizing bereavement as a depressive disorder, which would encourage clinicians to diagnose people with major depression if their grief-related symptoms last longer than two weeks!
By making grief a certifiable mental illness, it then becomes treatable by drugs and billable through insurance companies―and morphs into a "disorder" that is likely something that will stigmatize your health records for the rest of your life.
NEJM Says Grief Should be "Normalized" Not "Medicalized"
The APA's proposed classification, which is intended for inclusion in the association's upcoming new diagnostic manual, DSM-5, will characterize bereavement as a major depressive disorder after only two weeks of grieving. According to DSM-4, mild depressive symptoms, such as sadness, insomnia and crying, in a person who has recently lost a loved one are considered grief-related, and the guidelines clearly distinguish between normal grief and the more persistent symptoms of major depression.
Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)i, Richard Friedman, M.D., explains that the new version of the manual will label healthy people with a mental condition and make them prime candidates for unnecessary prescriptions of mind-altering antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs.
" … the American Psychiatric Association is considering making a significant change to the definition of depression in the upcoming 5th edition of the DSM, which would specifically characterize bereavement as a depressive disorder. In removing the so-called bereavement exclusion, the DSM-5 would encourage clinicians to diagnose major depression in persons with normal bereavement after only 2 weeks of mild depressive symptoms. Unfortunately, the effect of this proposed change would be to medicalize normal grief and erroneously label healthy people with a psychiatric diagnosis.
And it will no doubt be a boon to the pharmaceutical industry, because it will encourage unnecessary treatment with antidepressants and antipsychotics, both of which are increasingly used to treat depression and anxiety."
He notes that close to 2.5 million Americans die each year, and the number of those experiencing grief as a result is far higher. This is the market the pharmaceutical industry stands to gain, thanks to the APA's flagrant disregard for common sense. As if to help make things "right," the APA announced on May 9, 2012 that they would add a footnote "indicating that sadness with some mild depressive symptoms in the face of loss should not necessarily be viewed as major depression" – but noted that the bereavement exclusion would still be removed from the new DSM-5.
Poof – Another "Disease" Created Out of Thin Air
The APA should be more aptly named the American Psychopharmacological Association, because they heavily rely on and promote drugs as the solution to most all mental illness. Worse yet, they work in tandem with the drug industry, "creating" more and more "psychiatric diseases," which are appearing in the literature all the time:
- 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 surfing the Web? It might be Internet Addiction Disorder.
- 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!
Each of these new "diseases" gets added to the next edition of the DSM if enough people show up with those traits. And increasingly, the criteria for inclusion involves whether or not the disorder responds to a category of drugs. If it does, the phenomenon is dubbed a disease.
Of the 297 mental disorders described in the DSM, none can be objectively measured by empirical testsii. In other words, they're completely subjective. Mental illness symptoms within this manual are arbitrarily assigned by a subjective voting system by a psychiatric panel. So, they're essentially making up diseases to fit the drugs—not the other way around.
It's almost impossible to see a psychiatrist today without being diagnosed with a mental disorder because so many behavior variations are described as pathology. And you have very high chance – approaching 100% -- of emerging from your psychiatrist's office with a prescription in hand. Writing a prescription is, of course, much faster than engaging in behavioral or lifestyle strategies, but it's also a far more lucrative approach for the conventional model. Additionally, most practitioners have yet to accept the far more effective energetic psychological approaches.
The branding of various forms of normal human emotions as "mental illness" has been a Big Pharma cash cow for years. According to marketing professional Vince Parry in a 2003 commentary called "The Art of Branding a Condition":iii"Watching the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) balloon in size over the decades to its current phonebook dimensions would have us believe that the world is a more unstable place today than ever."… Not surprisingly, many of these newly coined conditions were brought to light through direct funding by pharmaceutical companies, in research, in publicity or both."
And if that's not damning enough, a former chief of the American Psychiatric Association admitted that some of the "mistakes" the APA made in its diagnostic manual have had "terrible consequences," which have mislabeled millions of children and adults, and facilitated epidemics of mental illness that don't existiv.
The Despicable Way Big Pharma Successfully Drugs Up Your Kids
Disease manufacturing doesn't just impact adults … it also targets your kids. A new book -- Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health -- exposes the secrets drug companies use to sell their wares may have you seething once you know what Big Pharma does to influence the drugging of the most vulnerable human beings of all―your children. According to AlterNet, the once modest specialty of child psychiatry has become a hot market for a pharmacology industry that services a mire of "disorders."v
From schizophrenia to just being irritable (and a dozen behaviors in-between) there's a pill for every pediatric patient alive. And it's all because good marketing has made children the new money bomb. How can that be? Easy, says former pharmaceutical rep Gen Olsen in the featured article."Children are forced by school personnel to take their drugs, they are forced by their parents to take their drugs, and they are forced by their doctors to take their drugs. So, children are the ideal patient-type because they represent refilled prescription compliance and 'longevity'. In other words, they will be lifelong patients and repeat customers for Pharma."
The featured article continued:
"Few, indeed, are kids who start out diagnosed and treated for ADHD, bipolar disorder, and other "psychopathologies" who end up on no drugs, psychologically fine, and ready to run for class president. Even if they outgrow their original diagnoses—a big "if" with a mental health history that follows them—the side effects from years of psychoactive drugs and their physical health on mental, social, and emotional development take their toll. Even children on allergy and asthma drugs, which are promoted for kids as young as age one, are now known to develop psychiatric side effects according to emerging research.
Kids who start out with psychiatric diagnoses are not only lifers—they are expensive lifers usually shuttled into government programs that will pay for psychiatric drug "cocktails" that can approach $2,000 a month."
The industry has no doubt been helped by federal and state laws that mandate universal mental health screening for all children from birth to ages 18 or 22, such as those in Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Illinois. That means that, technically, kids can be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder as early as a few days old and drugged, even if their parents don't agree.
The Vitamin D Connection
It's a shame many psychiatrists appear to be too busy writing prescriptions to keep abreast of the latest research, such as an incredibly revealing study recently published in BMC Psychiatry."vi Vitamin D deficiency is very common in teenagers with severe mental illness, which isn't surprising since vitamin D is crucial for proper brain development and functioning. The new study found that teenagers with low vitamin D levels were nearly four times as likely to be psychotic!
Research published in 2010 also found that teenage residents at a mental health clinic were likely to have low vitamin D levels, and most of them were dangerously low at that – female teens averaged vitamin D levels of around 20 ng/ml while males had average vitamin D level of around 10 ng/ml."vii Any child (or adult, for that matter) who is experiencing emotional or mental symptoms should have their vitamin D levels tested and optimized as a standard of care – but this is often overlooked by most health care practitioners (including psychiatrists). This could potentially alleviate the problem, as researchers noted "considerable psychiatric improvement that coincided with vitamin D treatment in some of the patients whose deficiency was treated."
You can learn some practical guidelines on how to use natural sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D levels in the video below.
Grief – When Should You Worry?
Getting back to feelings of grief, generally speaking the emotional intensity of these feelings will naturally recede over time. But for an estimated 10-20 percent of people, grieving continues for months or years and makes a return to normal life virtually impossible. Research has shown that long-term, "complicated grief" activates neurons in the reward centers of your brain, possibly giving it addiction-like properties.viii In one study only individuals with complicated grief showed significant activation of the nucleus accumbens, a region of the brain most commonly associated with reward.
What this means is that for people suffering from complicated grief, thinking about a deceased loved one activates neural reward activity, which gives the person temporary pleasurable feelings but ultimately can interfere with their ability to heal, adapt and move forward in their life. If you've been dealing with debilitating feelings of grief that last for a year or more, professional help may be warranted, and you should also try the techniques I describe below.
Drug-Free Options to Help You Move Through the Grieving Process
While grief can feel insurmountable and become understandably all-consuming, take comfort in the fact that virtually everyone is able to move past the dark feelings. Typically within six months, you'll begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. During the grieving process, be gentle with yourself and take steps to support positive mental health. Exercise is very helpful for this aspect. Other common stress reduction tools with a high success rate include prayer, meditation and yoga. The Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, is another option; it's a psychological acupressure technique, one I highly recommend to manage stress and optimize your emotional health.
Also, please remember that both your mind and mood are significantly affected by your diet, so don't dismiss that part. While it may not be a miracle cure in and of itself, it can be extremely difficult to achieve sound mental health without the proper foundation of a sound diet and exercise plan.
Sound sleep is another critical issue. You can have the best diet and exercise program possible but if you aren't sleeping well your mental health can suffer and it is difficult to make healing progress. You can find 33 tips to help improve your sleep habits here.
Remember, left untended, emotional trauma like losing a loved one can lead to serious health problems down the road, so if you've been dealing with debilitating feelings of grief that last for a year or more, professional help, including counseling or working with an EFT professional, may be warranted.
- i The New England Journal of Medicine May 17, 2012
- ii Food Matters, The Marketing of Madness
- iii Medical Marketing and Media, May 2003; 38, 5, The Art of Branding a Condition (PDF)
- iv Alliance for Human Research Protection March 15, 2011
- v AlterNet May 16, 2012
- vi BMC Psychiatry. 2012 May 9;12(1):38
- vii J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2010 Jul;121(1-2):467-70. Epub 2010 Mar 7
- viii Neuroimage. 2008 Aug 15;42(2):969-72