Grief is much a part of life as any other emotion we human beings experience — it is indeed one of the things that defines us as human. Bereavement, whether from the loss of a loved one or from life problems such as divorce and job loss is part of the human experience.
But if you have a hankering to peruse the DSM-V, you’d never know it — the new guidelines suggest that after only two weeks following a loss, a sad patient should be considered depressed and prescribed anti-depressants.
The December 14 issue of the British Medical Journal cites very real consequences of over diagnosing depression, which the authors consider to now be more likely than under diagnosing major depressive disorder. Doing so, they write, would represent a “medical intrusion on personal emotions.” And, even though the number of people with major depressive disorder has remained consistent over the last 20 years, actual diagnoses have doubled.
The reasons for this emphasis on unceasing happiness are as disconcerting as the over diagnosis problem itself — one of which is heavy handed marketing tactics by Big Pharma. Additionally, psychiatrists tend to overemphasize the biochemistry of depression while not addressing the psychological, social, and cultural issues that may come into play.
Additionally, Westerners believe they have a “right” to happiness, and that normal sadness simply isn’t tolerable in the collective psyche of the public.
Those who are in mourning, the authors contend, follow a “different course” than those who suffer from major depressive disorder; additionally, grief resolves itself over time, especially if a patient has emotional support.
According to a study conducted in 2009-2010 by the US National Survey of Drug Use and Health, only 38% of adults who had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder actually presented with the illness’s typical symptomatology.
In order to mitigate over diagnosis and over medicating with anti depressants, the authors suggest that in order to carefully consider whether or not a patient has major depressive disorder, they should be carefully interviewed and have persistent sadness throughout the day for over two months.
As for the implications of all of this, my biggest concern is much more basic: if human beings never experience sadness, how can they possibly recognize happiness?