Prolonged Grief Disorder: Symptoms, Characteristics & Treatment

Profound grief disorder

Grief is not time bound 

Some people’s grief-related feelings are crippling and don’t go better over time. Complicated grieving, also known as persistent complex bereavement disorder, is what is causing this. It is difficult to move past the loss and resume your own life when you are experiencing complicated grief since the painful emotions are so intense and long-lasting. 

Different people go through the grief process in different ways. Individuals may differ in the sequence and timing of these phases: 

  • recognising the truth of your loss; 
  • allowing oneself to feel the loss’s discomfort; 
  • Getting used to the new reality of the deceased being absent; and 
  • possessing additional relationships

Long-term grief disorder frequently co-occurs with other mental illnesses such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression. Additionally, sleep issues are widespread; it’s believed that 80% of people with extended mourning disorder have chronically bad sleep.

The American Psychiatric Association has now formally recognised prolonged mourning disorder as a mental health issue (APA). 

Symptoms of Prolonged Grief Disorder 

For an adult to be diagnosed with extended grief disorder, the loss of a loved one had to have happened at least a year prior, and for children and adolescents, it had to have happened at least six months prior. Additionally, for at least the previous month preceding the diagnosis, the mourning person had to have experienced at least three of the symptoms listed below almost daily.

  • Disruption of identity; 
  • Profound emotion of shock upon the event; 
  • Avoiding any references to the deceased’s passing or the said event; 
  • Intense emotional suffering brought on by the death, including rage, bitterness, and sadness; 
  • Having trouble reintegrating; 
  • Empathy numbness; and
  • Feeling that life has no purpose. Profound loneliness (feeling alone or detached from others).

Identifying Prolonged Grief Disorder 

It becomes difficult when it persists and is accompanied by dysfunctional actions and unhelpful beliefs. The standards are used to establish whether or not a person has complicated grief.

These consist of:

  • At least six months have passed since the loss. 
  • A yearning for the deceased, emotions of loneliness, and preoccupying thoughts about the deceased are examples of symptoms of chronic and acute grieving. 
  • At least two of any shock, anger, inability to trust others, or reluctance to accept death symptoms. 
  • Long-lasting symptoms extend beyond a month 
  • Symptoms seriously degrade a person’s quality of life.

Other characteristics of complicated grief could be: 

  • unable to carry on with their usual activities 
  • avoiding situations or pursuits that make them think about the missing individual 
  • sleeping issues 
  • uninterestedness in taking care of oneself 
  • reckless, irrational, and maybe self-destructive actions


Even though grief’s feelings and symptoms can occasionally worsen at particular moments, most of the time mental health care is not necessary. However, there are evidence-based treatments available for persons who experience the more severe, persistent symptoms of extended mourning disorder. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) components have been demonstrated to be useful in treating symptoms. It emphasises achieving objectives while also acknowledging the truth of the loss. CBT for insomnia has been demonstrated to be successful in enhancing sleep, according to research. Additionally, research suggests that CBT can help children and adolescents who are experiencing signs of protracted mourning.


Older persons and individuals with a background of depression or bipolar disorder may be more susceptible to developing extended grief disorder than other people. A caregiver’s risk increases if they were caring for a partner or had previously struggled with depression. Additionally, the likelihood of experiencing protracted grieving is higher when a loved one passes either abruptly or in a traumatic situation.

Depression is occasionally mistaken for complicated bereavement. Depression is a mental condition, whereas difficult sorrow is not, even though both may exhibit some of the same symptoms, such as sadness and hopelessness. Complicated mourning may result from interference with the usual grieving process.

The American Psychiatric Association has now formally recognised prolonged mourning disorder as a mental health issue (APA). It happens when someone goes through prolonged and profound grieving after experiencing loss. 

The inclusion of the illness in the DSM-5 will aid researchers in obtaining more money for their work and enable mental health care providers to be paid for treating those who have the disorder.

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