Grief, Depression, and the DSM-5

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Based on a review of the best available evidence and the importance of providing clinicians an opportunity to ensure that patients and their families receive the appropriate diagnosis and the correct intervention without necessarily being constrained by a somewhat arbitrary 2-month period of time, the DSM-5 Task Force recommended eliminating the “bereavement exclusion” (BE) from the diagnosis of major depressive disorder. This article reviews the initial rationale for creating a BE in DSM-III, reasons for not carrying the BE into DSM-5, and sources of continued controversy. The authors argue that removing the BE does not “medicalize” or “pathologize” grief, “stigmatize” bereaved persons, imply that grief morphs into depression after 2 weeks, place any time limit on grieving, or imply that antidepressant medications should be prescribed. Rather, eliminating the BE opens the door to the same careful attention that any person suffering from major depressive disorder deserves and allows the clinician to provide appropriate education, support, hope, care, and treatment. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2013;19:386–396)

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