Understanding Prolonged Grief Disorder
Prolonged Grief Disorder Nov 26, 2023

1. Basic Introduction

Grief is a universal human experience. A natural response to loss encompasses various emotions and reactions. At the same time, most individuals navigate through the grieving process with time. Some may find themselves trapped in an enduring state of emotional distress. It leads to a condition known as prolonged grief disorder (PGD).

2. What is Grief, and What is Prolonged Grief Disorder?
Grief is a natural response to loss associated with the death of a loved one. Still, it can also occur in response to other significant losses, such as the end of a relationship or a significant life change. It is a complex and multifaceted emotional experience that can manifest in various ways. Including sadness, anger, guilt, and confusion. Grief is an ordinary and necessary process that allows individuals to come to terms with their loss and adjust to life without the person or thing they have lost.

Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD), also known as Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder (PCBD. It is a condition that occurs when the grieving process is extended and becomes more intense and debilitating than what is considered normal. PGD is not a universal response to Grief. It is a specific and persistent set of symptoms that can interfere with a person’s ability to function daily. The diagnosis and criteria for PGD may vary, but generally, it involves experiencing grief-related symptoms for an extended period, often lasting for more than 12 months. Case Study: Coping with Loss and Prolonged Grief Disorder

Here are some critical differences between Grief and Prolonged Grief Disorder:

1. Duration and Intensity:

Grief is a natural and variable process that tends to diminish in intensity over time. While the pain of loss may never completely disappear, most people find ways to adjust and cope with their Grief.
PGD: Involves persistent, intense grief symptoms that last well beyond what is considered an average grieving period.

2. Functional Impairment:

Grief. Although Grief can be challenging, most individuals can still carry out their daily activities and maintain relationships.
PGD. This can lead to significant functional impairment, affecting a person’s ability to work, socialize, and engage in everyday activities.

3. Specific Symptoms:

Grief. It involves a range of emotions and reactions that are part of the normal grieving process, such as sadness, anger, denial, and acceptance.
PGD. It involves symptoms such as persistent longing or yearning for the deceased, intense emotional pain, difficulty accepting the death, and difficulty moving on with life.

It’s important to note that the distinction between Grief and Prolonged Grief Disorder is not always clear-cut, and there is ongoing research and discussion in the mental health community about the criteria for diagnosing and treating PGD. If someone is struggling with Grief, seeking support from friends, family, or mental health professionals can be beneficial. If symptoms of prolonged Grief are present, professional intervention may be necessary to help the individual navigate the complexities of their Grief.

3. Signs of Prolonged Grief Disorder

Identifying prolonged grief disorder involves recognizing persistent and debilitating symptoms that extend beyond the standard mourning period. The signs and symptoms of prolonged grief disorder may include:

1. Intense and Persistent Grief:

Long-lasting and intense sorrow related to the loss.
Frequent thoughts about the deceased.

2. Preoccupation with the Deceased:

Persistent preoccupation with memories of the deceased.
Strong yearning for the person who has died.

3. Difficulty Accepting the Loss:

A sense of disbelief or difficulty accepting the reality of the loss.

4. Avoidance of Reminders:

Actively avoiding places, people, or activities that remind the person of the deceased.

5. Emotional Numbness:

Feeling emotionally numb or detached from others.
Difficulty experiencing positive emotions.

6. Identity Disruption:

A significant disruption in one’s sense of identity or self.

7. Difficulty Moving Forward:

Persistent feelings of emptiness or meaninglessness.
Difficulty envisioning a future without the deceased.

8. Social Isolation:

Withdrawal from social activities and relationships.

9. Sleep Disturbances:

Insomnia or other sleep disturbances.

10. Functional Impairment:

Impaired ability to perform daily activities or fulfill responsibilities.

11. Physical Symptoms:

Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or other stress-related issues.

12. Intense Emotional Reactions:

Intense emotional reactions to reminders or anniversaries of the loss.

Symptoms of Prolonged Grief Disorder

1.Sleep Disturbances:

Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns.
Changes in sleep duration and quality.

2. Fatigue and Low Energy:

Persistent feelings of fatigue and low energy levels.

3. Cognitive Impairment:

Difficulty concentrating.
Impaired memory and cognitive function.

4. Headaches and Migraines:

Increased frequency and intensity of headaches or migraines.

5. Gastrointestinal Distress:

Gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomachaches, nausea, or digestive issues.

6. Changes in Appetite:

Appetite changes, including significant weight loss or gain.

7. Immunological Changes:

Weakened immune system, making the person more susceptible to illness.

8. Cardiovascular Symptoms:

Increased heart rate or heart palpitations.
Elevated blood pressure.

9. Muscle Tension and Pain:

Increased muscle tension, leading to body aches and pains.

10. Chronic Stress Response:

Prolonged activation of the body’s stress response system, with elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol.

11. Impaired Neurotransmitter Function:

Changes in neurotransmitter levels contribute to mood disorders.
It’s essential to recognize that grief can profoundly impact the entire body, influencing psychological and physiological well-being.

4. What Causes Prolonged Grief Disorder?

Various factors can trigger prolonged grief disorder, and it often results from a combination of these elements. Some key contributors include:

Sudden or traumatic loss: Unexpected or violent deaths may increase the risk of prolonged Grief.
Lack of a support system: Insufficient social support can hinder grieving.
Pre-existing mental health conditions: Individuals with a history of anxiety or depression may be more susceptible.
Nature of the relationship: The closeness of the relationship with the deceased can impact the intensity of Grief.

5. Treatment and Management of Prolonged Grief Disorder

Addressing prolonged grief disorder involves a comprehensive approach that combines therapeutic interventions and support. Some effective treatment and management strategies include:

Grief counseling: Talk therapy can help individuals explore and express their emotions.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT can assist in changing negative thought patterns and developing coping strategies.
Medication: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms such as depression or anxiety.
Support groups: Joining a support group with others who have experienced similar losses can provide a sense of understanding and community.
Self-care practices: Encouraging healthy habits, such as regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and relaxation techniques, can contribute to overall well-being.

In conclusion, prolonged grief disorder is a significant mental health concern that warrants attention and support. Recognizing the signs, understanding the causes, and seeking appropriate treatment can pave the way for individuals to navigate their Grief and find a path toward healing.

"What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us." - Helen Keller
About author

Karuna Kaul is psycho socio clinical psychologist, who works with all age group people. Her profession motivates her to serve people who are facing behavioral issues. She has over 8 years of experience and has successfully established credibility in the areas of counselling and wellness. Assessment and behavioral analysis and training and coaching. She has been an active advocate of mental health awareness. And all her endeavors in the field are primarily focused on educating more and more people about Mental Health concerns and promoting Holistic Wellbeing. She has done master in clinical psychology PG Diploma in counselling and guidance and certified in drug addiction counselling Also she has done neuro medicine psychology from London University, Kent College of United Kingdom. With an experience of six years, she had worked with various organization which provides mental health services.