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Normal Grieving vs. Clinical Depression: Telling the Difference

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How can you tell the difference between normal grieving and clinical depression that requires treatment? Dr. Alan Wolfelt, founding director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Colorado, has created this helpful checklist to distinguish the two. You can share this with your doctor if you suspect you need help.

You have normal grief if you... You may be clinically depressed if you...
☐ respond to comfort and support. ☐ do not accept support.
☐ are often openly angry. ☐ are irritable and complain but do not directly express anger.
☐ relate your depressed feelings to the loss experience. ☐ do not relate your feelings of depression to a particular life event.
☐ can still experience moments of enjoyment in life. ☐ exhibit an all-pervading sense of doom.
☐ exhibit feelings of sadness and emptiness. ☐ project a sense of hopelessness and chronic emptiness.
☐ may have transient physical complaints. ☐ have chronic physical complaints.
☐ express guilt over some specific aspects of the loss. ☐ have generalized feelings of guilt.
☐ feel a temporary loss of self-esteem. ☐ feel a deep and ongoing loss of self-esteem.

Excerpted from: Wolfet, A. Understanding Your Grief. Companion Press, 2004. p. 64.

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