“I’m going crazy; I can’t think, can’t remember anything, I just can’t function, and I don’t even care.” Have you heard yourself say that? Maybe you thought it, but were too afraid to admit it. Grief can do that, it makes normal people feel abnormal. After all, you experienced an abnormal event. “He was just running to the store for a loaf of bread and milk. She was going to graduate next week. Children are supposed to live longer than their parents. Adults are not supposed to get cancer if they don’t smoke, right?” 

It throws us into a tail spin. That’s normal right? Well, Psychologists don’t like to talk about normal verses abnormal. We prefer healthy and unhealthy. But when feelings are intensified to the point of affecting relationships and work, and these feelings are persistent, then that unhealthiness may be diagnosed as a psychological disorder.

Don’t let “psychological disorder” scare you. It’s just a classification so the clinician can give you the help you need. It is not a label that will hold you back from seeking employment or holding an office, or even being a police officer or fireman. It is a way of clarifying what is troubling you. In all likelihood, you may already know. This can be a way of getting validation and finding out that you are not alone. It’s the first step in doing something.

It takes a professional to make a clinical diagnosis, but there are several instruments out there that can point you in the right direction. Sometimes it can be a great relief hearing from a professional that you are not crazy; that you are experiencing “prolonged grief,” or  “uncomplicated bereavement.” Sometimes the labeling your experience is helpful.

Professionals use something called The Diagnostical Statistical Manual to make a diagnosis. This helps decide a treatment plan, it helps gather research, and it helps answer the question, “What is wrong with me and how do I fix it?”

There has long been a diagnosis called, “Uncomplicated Bereavement,” which describes the typical symptoms related to grief and is not considered a “mental illness.” However, when symptoms increase and persist to the point that work, and relationships are significantly affected, another diagnosis is warranted.

Researchers are still developing the criteria by assessing bereaved individuals and providing them help. Currently, they are looking at something called, “Persistent Complex Bereavement Disorder” or Prolonged Grief. It’s a group of symptoms within three main areas that last for longer than 12 months. The symptoms range from persistent yearning for the deceased to a marked difficulty in accepting the death, to difficulty or reluctance to pursue interests since the loss or to plan for the future (e.g., friendships, activities).

There is an excellent tool available for you to find out if you have “Prolonged Grief Disorder.” Leading researchers in the field, Holly G. Prigerson, Ph.D., Paul K. Maciejewski, Ph.D developed a scale that will help determine if you meet the criteria for the proposed disorder. It’s completely anonymous. Just click on the link below to take you to a brief 13 question screening tool. What do you have to lose?

Go to: http://andymdavidson.com/Home/Pgd to begin the screening scale.

Andy is a Clinical Psychologist who lost his son in a tragic motorcycle accident and now authors articles on bereavement. The quiz is available! Go to http://andymdavidson.com/Home/Pgd to find out if you may have Prolonged Grief Disorder. Look forward to his upcoming posts, and books. Follow him at his website, AndyMDavidson.com and Facebook.com/ThroughLifeandLoss to find out more about prolonged grief.