Happy Pills for the Grieving

The New York Times ran an article, Grief Could Join List of Disorders, describing how the American Psychiatric Association is revising its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and apparently grief may be added to the list of disorders.

While grief is certainly not a fun thing to go through, and there is not doubt in my mind that it is a form of depression, it is also a healthy form of depression when it runs it course the way it should. There are generally several stages—ranging from five to ten depending on the expert—that include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages vary in length for each person, and some people even skip some. Everyone handles grief differently which is why, I imagine, the number of stages can vary.

The thing that everyone seems to agree on is that grief is natural, and that it should not be suppressed. Holding it in is not healthy; failing to let it out is not healthy. While grief can certainly trigger an unhealthy depression, if it’s not handled well, it seems to me that this will only give doctors the ability to prescribe drugs much earlier than should be.

From the article: “What I worry about most is that the revisions will medicalize normality and that millions of people will get psychiatric labels unnecessarily,” said Dr. Allen Frances, who was chairman of the task force that revised the last edition.

While I certainly have a problem with the increasing labels given to people in society for their “abnormalities,” I see this as another easily abused disorder like ADD. Oh, this persons a little off. Let’s give them some drugs. It also fits in well with a society that seems to abhor unhappiness. Oh, you’re grieving? How about a happy pill?

While the goal of being proactive to prevent serious problems that could later develop later is noble, the reality is, that more Americans will have access to powerful drugs at an earlier stage. Many who don’t need them. While there may be a number of people who helped by this, I can’t help but think the big winner will be the drug companies.

J. Alan Doak

J. Alan Doak is a blogger, reader, writer, news junkie, and student of the Bible. He is married and has three grown children. He holds a bachelor's degree in Pastoral Studies, and has blogged sporadically at this website, Reflection on Plumb, over several years.

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