Can Grief be a Mental Disorder?: An Exploration of Public Opinion
Despite growing empirical evidence, the distinction between normal and pathological grief remains controversial. Few studies have investigated public attitudes towards distinguishing normal from pathological grief. An international sample of 348 participants from a wide range of cultures was asked if certain expressions of grief could be considered a mental disorder and to explain their answer. Analysis revealed that the majority (74.7%) agreed that grief could be considered a mental disorder. The presence of pervasive distress, of harm to self and/or others, functional impairment, and persistent grief were described as the circumstances under which grief can be a mental disorder. Reasons grief is not a mental disorder were that it is normal, temporary, in response to an event, and that efforts to include it in diagnostic manuals will lead to medicalization and stigma. The investigation of public norms informs the inclusion of pathological grief in diagnostic nosology.