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Ram Dass

Many people, including some mental health and medical professionals, have the misconception that grief and depression are synonymous. This misunderstanding has led to some people being diagnosed with depression when they are really exhibiting normal manifestation of grief. While the fifth and latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the "bible" of diagnosing mental disorders, has been criticized for various reasons, it has included a very good description of how grief manifestations and depression can be differentiated. The following table delineates the differences:

Characteristic Grief Depression
Predominant Affect Emptiness and loss Persistent depressed mood and inability to anticipate happiness or pleasure
Timing Likely to decrease over time (and with work), occur in waves, and be associated with thoughts or reminders of the deceased More persistent and not tied to specific thoughts or preoccupations
Emotions Positive emotions and humor possible Pervasive unhappiness and misery
Thought content Preoccupation with thoughts and memories of deceased Self-critical or pessimistic ruminations
Self-esteem Generally preserved, any self-derogatory ideation typically involves perceived failings vis-à-vis the deceased Feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing
Thoughts about death and dying Generally focused on the deceased and possibly "joining" the deceased Focused on ending one's own life because of feeling worthless, undeserving of life, and unable to cope with the pain of depression

Depression is a serious mental condition. This description should be used only for informational purposes, and not as medical advice. If you believe you, or someone you know, is possibly exhibiting depression, s/he should be seen and evaluated by a competent medical professional.