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Open Conversation: How grief can impact your mental health

Posted at 7:10 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 20:10:30-04

WACO, Texas — While many people who are grieving do make it through the five steps, there are some who can get stuck and can develop what's called Prolonged Grief Disorder.

The disorder can be diagnosed if symptoms last more than 12 months after a loss. It's estimated about 10% of grieving people suffer from PGD. Experts say it's more common among people who experience miscarriages or lose someone in a violent or unexpected way.

PGD can lead to depression, isolation and even suicidal thoughts. These symptoms can be even worse for people who already experience mental health problems.

"Anytime our body goes through any kind of intense stress and grief can be a very intense stress, it can bring a shock to our system and we often have to adapt our day to day lives and how we live and that can cause an increase of symptoms if there are already symptoms there," local therapist Katie Chadwell said.

In some cases, a traumatic loss can actually bring on mental health problems for those who had never experienced them in the past. If a person doesn't allow themselves to grieve or if they don't reach out for help if they are struggling, it can manifest into something more serious.

"Sometimes that grief is just prolonged and we don't know how to work past it and sometimes that can turn into something like depression or anxiety," Chadwell said.

According to the Psychiatric Times, 40% of grievers meet the criteria for major depression one month after their loss, and 24% still meet the criteria after two months.

While everyone handles grief differently, it is recommended for people to surround themselves with a support community following a major loss.