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March 2017
Psychology
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DEPRESSION FOLLOWING A DEATH

    DEPRESSION

Overcoming the death of a loved one is very difficult and, in some cases, but fortunately quite rarely, it can trigger depressive syndromes. However, normal reactions to death must not be confused with signs of depression, even if they are very similar.

The painful phases
The pain that death causes normally goes through five phases:

  • Denying reality and isolation This is a defence mechanism that allows us to alleviate the intense initial phase of pain. It is a temporary, psychological response.
  • Anger When the masking effects of denial and isolation start to wear off, the reality of the situation and the relative pain reappear. However, the suffering person is not yet ready for this so the intense emotions he/she feels are deflected and redirected and turn into anger. This anger is then directed towards the person who has died and eventually leads to feeling bad for getting cross with the deceased person, which in turn fuels the anger even more. 
  • Self-blame This phase is about blaming oneself for not doing things which could have avoided or delayed the death. What if they had gone to the doctor before, what if they had sought specialist help elsewhere... 
  • Depression Two types of depression are connected to bereavement, one which is more profound and another related to the practical aspects which death brings with it. The length of time of this phase varies from a few weeks to six months. The most common symptoms are a depressed mood, feeling sad, loss of appetite, panic attacks, agitation and lack of concentration. The majority of people feel like the deceased person is still present in some way.
  • Acceptance After the depression phase, the respective symptoms reside and the person tries to get back to normality. The duration of this phase varies and not everyone is able to reach it.

How to overcome depression 

It is not necessary to repress feelings too much, in fact you should let your emotions out, however, in the initial phase they may seem too intense. It is a good idea to turn to friends and relatives and not keep to ourselves, since supporting one another can be very helpful. Turning to a specialist is only required in special cases, like when a person cannot move on from one of the aforementioned phases.

Psychotropic medication

Taking antidepressants may be counter-productive in the early stages as they may interfere with the mourning process. If you cannot sleep during the first few nights following the bereavement, the doctor may prescribe tranquilisers, but only for a limited period of time, after which the treatment should be discontinued. 

DEPRESSION

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