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Depression and Grief February 19, 2008

University Hospital Nurse Practitioner Says Explains the Differences Between Depression and Grief

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Feb. 12, 2008 – There are distinct differences between depression and grief that sufferers and family members should be on the lookout for, according to University Hospital Nurse Practitioner Victoria Burt. Ms. Burt, an ongoing guest on the NBC Augusta Healthy U segment, recently addressed this viewer’s question.

“There is a difference between grief and depression, and in some cases the difference is overlooked and thought to be just grief, thereby prolonging the person’s suffering,” Ms. Burt said. “Some common characteristics of depression are sadness, low energy and problems concentrating.”

The key differences, however, are that the grieving person stays connected to others, occasionally experiences pleasure and continues to function, while the depressed person isolates themselves from others and generally does not experience even brief periods of pleasure.

“They describe the feeling as if they’ve fallen into a black hole,” Ms. Burt said. Ms. Burt said a person can move from grief to depression easily after experiencing multiple losses, like the death of a parent and a child.

A person experiencing others stressors like a natural disaster, job loss or divorce, or someone with a history of abuse, is also more susceptible to depression.

Chronic grief is grief that is intense and lasts longer than six months, Ms. Burt said. One in10 people will experience chronic grief.

“There is major distress from the loss with intense yearning for the person,” she explained. “The mind is constantly occupied with thoughts and images of the person. There is significant distress at any reminder of the person.”

Ms. Burt said that normal grief typically decreases over time and generally does not require professional treatment. Family and friends need to be supportive immediately after the loss as well as weeks later.

“As for depression and chronic grief, they are treatable conditions,” Ms. Burt said. “If you seek medical treatment for fatigue or problems sleeping, be sure to tell your health care provider of the loss so that proper treatment can be prescribed. In some cases an antidepressant is prescribed or the person may be referred for counseling.”


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