How Grief Affects Mental Health
Grief and depression are unavoidable and affect every aspect of life. Everybody experiences grief at some point, and the loss of a loved one or life goal can be excruciating. There is no prescribed way to grieve, particularly because people tend to experience a variety of emotions as they try to come to terms with the death of someone they love.
Sometimes, grief can last so long that it leads to depression or anxiety, especially if the loss was very difficult or traumatic. Grief is unique to each person, and some people experience loss in more difficult ways than others. If left untreated or unsupported, grief can eventually have a serious impact on mental health.
How Grief and Depression Affect Mental Health
Losing a loved one can prove quite traumatic. There is no time to prepare for such a loss, and it challenges our confidence and security in life. People may even experience symptoms like anxiety, social isolation, depression, distress, loss of sleep and nightmares as a result. Predictable losses, like losing someone with a terminal illness, provide more time for people to prepare, but they too can lead to depression. It is important not to judge grief, as everyone experiences loss in different ways. Also, grief may trigger chemical changes in the brain that lead to depression and other issues.
Grief and addiction are also often related. When loss and sadness become overwhelming, people often turn to alcohol or other harmful substances to feel comfort and to numb painful emotions. If self-medicated, grief can turn into a long-term addiction. However, some of the normal feelings people experience with grief and depression include the following examples:
- Feeling stunned or shocked
- Longing for the lost person
- Guilt for not saying or saying something
If you experience these symptoms, it may be normal grief. However, if you experience these symptoms for quite some time, then seek professional help.
Grief and Mental Illness
Grief often affects people with a mental illness differently than those who lack such disorders. After a loss or bereavement, symptoms of anxiety and depression increase. General behavior can change for a long time. In certain cases, people with a mental illness have externalized symptoms. Instead of focusing on their underlying emotions and thoughts, such individuals often react by destroying property, harming themselves or showing physical or verbal aggression.
Coping With Grief and Depression
To treat grief and depression, you could take any of the following actions:
- Spend more time with friends and family
- Care for the people who can provide you comfort
- Give yourself enough time to recover
- Learn to express your emotions and feelings. Don’t suppress anger or sadness, but talk to someone about them.
- Accept that your personal and professional life may change for some time. You may need to change your routines to provide yourself some time to cope.
- There may be some physical signs of illness or stress. Talk to your doctor to ensure that it does not affect your physical health.
If you need help coping with grief and addiction, our toll-free helpline is available 24 hours a day for you to find treatment. Feel free to reach out to us for professional help.