Understanding the Difference Between Grief and Depression

Understanding the Difference Between Grief and Depression

Every life has moments of grief. When you lose someone or something that’s important to you, it’s normal, and even healthy, to go through a period of grief. Some triggers for grief include:

Though each individual and culture experiences and expresses grief differently, if your grief lasts long past the inciting moment, or if it impairs your ability to live your own life, you may be depressed. Depression is a mental illness that can severely affect your quality of life and may even threaten your life.

If you or a loved one has suffered a recent loss, our expert and caring counselors

at The Soho Center for Mental Health in Greenwich Village, New York City, New York, want to help. Here we offer a brief guide to the differences between grief and depression to help you understand when intervention and therapy is necessary. 

Grief and depression have similar symptoms

One reason it can be difficult to separate grief from depression is that the two states share many symptoms. Also, depression may grow out of a period of grief. Symptoms of both grief and depression include:

Whether arising from grief or depression, if symptoms persist on a daily basis for more than two weeks, you or your loved one should seek counseling. If you or a loved one either thinks about suicide or has tried to self-harm, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right away at 1-800-273-8255.

Do you know why you’re feeling sad or hopeless?

Grief is a reaction to a known loss. However, if you’re depressed, you may feel a sense of loss and hopelessness and not know why. Even if you can identify the grief trigger, if you have feelings of sadness or loss of hope that persists for more than a couple of weeks, your grief may have developed into depression. 

Are your feelings about the loss or about yourself?

If you’re in a state of grief, you may think constantly of the person or thing that you lost. In depression, however, you may not have a focus on your feelings of loss and sadness. Your sadness, instead, may reflect your feelings about yourself.

Have you lost pleasure in daily activities?

When you’re grieving a loss, you may not be as interested as usual in the activities that you normally enjoy. Or, you may enjoy them for a time, then lose interest, then regain it when you’re feeling better. In depression, that lost pleasure doesn’t come back, and you tend to disengage from activities and people you formerly enjoyed.

Do you want to be with other people?

Most of the time, if you’re grief-stricken, you take solace from close friends and family. The presence of other loved ones soothes your distress.

In contrast, if you’re depressed, you may entirely withdraw from others. In fact, their mere presence may be irritating to you.

Do you still have a full range of emotions?

In grief, you may still find yourself laughing at something that somebody says, or at a memory of a loved one. Even though your overall mood may be depressed, your emotions fluctuate. When you’re depressed, though, you may feel “stuck” in sadness and aren’t able to feel other emotions at all.

Do you feel guilty?

Survival guilt can be a normal part of the grieving process. Maybe you feel like you could have done something to prevent the loss, but didn’t. If you’re depressed, that feeling of guilt may be more general, as if you’re somehow unworthy of happiness.

Do you have physical symptoms?

Even in a state of grief, you may feel physically ill and unable to go about your normal activities. However, if your impairment is prolonged and if you don’t go back to your daily tasks, you may be depressed.

Do you wish you were dead?

When someone you love dies, you may wish that you could, too, so that you could reunite with them. If you’re depressed, however, you may wish to die because you don’t think you’re worthy of living or because you can’t conceive of ever getting over your loss.

If your grief is disabling or has turned to depression, make an appointment for grief and loss counseling or depression treatment today by using our online form or calling our knowledgeable staff. Teletherapy via a secure online portal is also an option we’re pleased to offer. 

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