By Catherine Johnston and Rebecca Nappi, The Spokesman-Review
10:11 PM EST, November 14, 2012
Q: I lost my job six months ago when the company downsized, and I am still unemployed. I cannot sleep and am disinterested in any activities I once enjoyed. Is this grief or depression?
A: While 30 million Americans will suffer from depression at least once in their lives, a 2007 study found one out of every four people told they have depression could, in fact, be grieving. The line between grief and depression blurs, and often we use the words interchangeably because some of the symptoms are similar.
Grief is an expected response to loss — and lack of employment is a loss — that may cause physical distress, like sleeplessness. However, with grief one still hopes, feels pleasure and expresses feelings, like humor and joy.
Grief comes in waves: One minute you are laughing at a joke; the next minute you may feel overwhelmed and take a nap.
Health care providers rarely prescribe medication for grief since it is best managed through supportive listening and activities like rituals, journaling, exercise, social gatherings — whatever one finds soothing. Medication for grief can actually cause harm since it may numb the pain, delaying the healing process.
Clinical depression is a mood disorder involving feelings of profound loss, anger, frustration, sadness. One or more of these feelings can interfere with daily living.
Clinical depression tends to be linear and unrelenting. Depressed people tend to have changed routines: consistent lack of sleep or too much sleep, weight loss or gain, inability to function at all. Feelings of guilt or suicide may indicate clinical depression.
While you are unemployed, create a new routine. Each day track what you do and how you feel. After a few weeks, share your daily logs with a professional counselor. Together, you can determine if you are experiencing a normal grief reaction or if you need a referral to someone who can assess you for clinical depression.
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