How Grief Affects Mental Health

Grief and Mental Health

Grief and Mental Health

Grief is an emotion that naturally occurs in response to a loss of any kind. Most people associate grief with the death of a loved one or a pet. However, it may also occur in response to situations like divorce, the loss of a job, or the diagnosis of a chronic illness. Regardless of the cause of a person’s grief, the associated emotions are often very distressing. Some people experience persistent sadness, while others may feel anger, guilt, or numbness. When unmanaged, grief can damage a person’s mental health, possibly leading to the development of a mental health disorder like depression or addiction.

Grief and Depression

The border between grief and depression is unclear, though they are considered to be separately occurring conditions. Unmanaged grief often progresses until a diagnosis of depression can be made from specific indicators. Both grief and depression separately can interfere with a person’s ability to enjoy life, and can lead to changes in sleep patterns and concentration. However, when a person is grieving, he feels waves of emotional pain in response to the thought of the loss. With depression, though, emotional pain remains constant across all of life’s scenarios.

Grief and Addiction

When unmanaged, grief can leave people feeling as if there is no way to be happy again. This can unfortunately lead those people to abuse drugs or alcohol as a method of coping. These substances are often abused during grief by those who want to escape or avoid confronting their emotions. Substance abuse provides an artificial happiness that merely suppresses the underlying grief. Ultimately, the frequent abuse of drugs or alcohol in this situation can lead to addiction.

The co-occurrence of grief with addiction can be devastating. Underlying grief often remains untreated while additional problems build up from the addiction. Once that person finally hits rock bottom and seeks treatment for his addiction, he must also confront his grief that had been suppressed for so long.

Coping with Grief

Grief is a normal and healthy response to many of life’s situations. Many people believe that it is actually unhealthy to bypass grief in certain scenarios, such as the loss of a loved one. However, those who cannot cope with their grief may eventually end up suffering additionally from a mental health disorder. Many people find that individual therapy is beneficial in recovering from grief. Therapy can provide an environment to talk through those feelings of grief that might otherwise remain unstated. In addition, a therapist can assist in uncovering deeper feelings that a person may be suppressing.

The Mayo Clinic also suggests that taking care of yourself and your family is necessary to coping with grief. Many times, people will let their personal care fall to the side while dealing with grief. However, personal care is something that can aid in recovering from grief. Eating well, exercising, and getting a full night’s sleep are all essential parts of coping.

Get Help for Grief

Grief is a painful experience that can affect a person’s mental health when unmanaged. If you or a loved one suffers from grief, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatment for grief.