FAQ: How Is Depression Different From Grief?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

How is depression different from grief?

Expert Answers

Kenneth Robbins, M.D., is a senior medical editor of Caring.com. He is board certified in psychiatry and internal medicine, has a master's in public health from the University of Michigan, and is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His current clinical practice focuses primarily on geriatrics. He has written and contributed to many articles and is frequently invited to speak on psychiatric topics, such as psychiatry and the law, depression, anxiety, dementia, and suicide risk and prevention.

Grief is a normal emotional response to a loss. Depression, too, can be triggered by a loss (as well as other stressors), but it's a physical illness and therefore not a normal condition. Here's how they compare:

Grief leads to a sadness that comes in waves. Those grieving are able at times to experience pleasure, until the next wave hits. There may also be intermittent (not consistent) problems with sleep, appetite, concentration, or motivation -- and over the weeks or months after the loss, these symptoms should gradually improve. After a week or two, grief usually doesn't interfere with a person's ability to function at work or in his or her usual tasks at home.

Depression brings a more consistent feeling of sadness; one of the hallmark symptoms of depression is a loss of the ability to experience pleasure. Depressions can be triggered by other stresses besides loss; it can even begin without an apparent stress.

Community Answers

Cjmarley answered...

Gotta say...if grief doesn't interfere with function at work or tasks after a week or two...then all the widows I know are severely depressed because all of them have had those problems beyond the first couple of weeks.