Selling Sickness 2013

good grief, you’re not over it yet?

I (K.W) can’t believe that it’s been 10 years since my funny young husband, Woody, died as a result of Zoloft-induced suicide.  It’s been a long journey learning to live with a new “normal.”

Only weeks after Woody’s death, my doctor asked if I needed antidepressants to help deal with my grief.  I looked at her in disbelief.  Not only was I learning that Zoloft was involved with my husband’s death, but I remember thinking “Shouldn’t I hurt?  My husband of 10 years just died.  Are you actually telling me that because I cry or hurt or don’t feel like getting out of bed that I have a mental disorder and should take a pill to “deal” with my pain?”

In the past, few medical professionals would question a patient expressing sadness, tears or insomnia in the weeks or months after the abrupt or even expected death of a loved one. Someone failing to show such symptoms would be curious. The previous editions of the DSM included a “bereavement exclusion” to a depression diagnosis that allowed doctors to say, “Well, of course you cry when you hear your loved one’s favorite song, look at your photos, remember a funny story, smell his sweater. You’re not depressed. You’re human.”

However, fast forward to the new DSM-5; the “breavement exclusion” is being removed.  Normal grief will quickly become “major depressive disorder,” and pills will be given for a universal human emotional reaction.  Raw, early-stage grief now might be viewed as a disorder, as in, “It’s been two months and you’re not over it yet?”

This is the essence of disease-mongering aka selling sickness. Is it possible that the DSM authors have never lost a loved one? What is the advantage of this development? Adding new disorders with high prevalence rates in the general population produces millions of new customers and costs billions of healthcare dollars.  Patients experiencing “normal” life hurts will inevitably be exposed to unnecessary  treatment risks and harms and the meaning of bereavement will change into something to be eliminated rather than accepted and transcended.

I’m sorry, but grief is normal and it attests to the value of intimate relationships. Bring back normal grief.

Here’s a great article in the Washington Post in December, 2012 by Peter Whoriskey about the DSM-5 bereavement change and the authors’ ties to the drug industry.

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