Woman sitting near window with hands over face wondering can grief cause mental illness

Grief and loss can uproot your life, making every day feel hopeless and bleak. In some people, grief can persist or act as a trigger for the onset of mental illness. Here’s a look at the grieving process, types of grief, and mental health challenges that may come. Are you fighting depression after the loss of a loved one? Reach out to our caring team at Georgetown Behavioral Hospital.

What Is the Normal Grieving Process?

People can suffer many types of losses, whether the loss of a home, a pet, or a loved one. It’s a part of being human. When you experience a loss that is significant to you, grief is a normal process to go through. Typically, a healthy grieving process entails several stages. The stages can come in any order, and you might skip a stage or go back to a stage at any time. Here are the usual stages of grief.

  • Denial – You may not believe the loss has happened, avoid the subject, feel confused, or shut down.
  • Anger – You may be angry, pessimistic, cynical, or irritable.
  • Bargaining – In bargaining, you may worry, ruminate about the past, or be judgmental towards yourself or others. You may say, “If only I had done something different.”
  • Depression – You might cry, isolate from others, or have changes in eating and sleeping.
  • Acceptance – You accept reality as it is now, stay present in the moment, adapt, and cope with your new life.

The grieving process comes with many feelings and symptoms, such as:

  • Crying
  • Sleep problems
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling apathetic
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Avoiding social situations and withdrawing from relationships
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Questioning your spiritual beliefs and life choices, and goals.
  • Feeling angry, guilty, lonely, depressed, empty, or sad

While there is no specific time limit to the natural grieving process, you will likely settle into your new situation within a few months or even weeks. By then, you will likely have learned to cope with the loss, even though you haven’t forgotten it.


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Types of Grief

The 4 Types of Grief Infographic

Several types of grief can play out differently from the typical grief process. Sometimes, these grief patterns trigger complicated grief, but other times, they can resolve or lead to mental health issues.

Traumatic Grief

Traumatic grief sometimes comes when a death happens in a violent or sudden way. It can also happen when the person who died is young. For example, the loss of a child, a young adult, or any person you expected to live much longer can be traumatic.

When you experience traumatic grief, it can create intense feelings and reactions, and you might develop PTSD. In that case, getting PTSD treatment can help you deal with both the grief and the new mental health challenge.

Delayed Grief

Delayed grief means putting off grief for another time. You might feel like you need to be brave or stoic. You might put off your grief so that you can better take care of your family or other responsibilities. On the other hand, you might not even realize you are delaying your grief.

In some cases, you might not be able to grieve right away because you are under too much stress from your changing life circumstances. Or, you might not be able to feel grief until something triggers your emotions.

Disenfranchised Grief

In disenfranchised grief, you grieve silently because it’s easier than discussing the death openly due to family, religious, or cultural pressures. In some cases, it’s because of a stigma around the death or the person, such as death by HIV or miscarriage.

What Is Complicated Grief?

When you have complicated grief, you can’t stop grieving, and the grief process can be incredibly intense. Unable to get back to your everyday life, you continue to grieve until you resolve it on your own, or more likely, until you seek help.

Other names for complicated grief include:

  • Atypical grief
  • Chronic grief
  • Exaggerated grief
  • Pathological grief
  • Persistent complex bereavement disorder

When you have complicated grief, you may have all the feelings and symptoms of the typical grief process. However, you will likely have several other symptoms as well.

  • Persistent, intense anger or rage
  • Not being able to focus on anything besides the loss
  • Can’t accept the reality that the loss has happened
  • Avoiding reminders of the loss
  • Extremely intense feelings, including sadness, pain, hopelessness, detachment, low self-esteem
  • Substance abuse or risky behavior

If you have complicated grief, you may need help to get past this stage and complete your grieving process.

Can Grief Cause Mental Illness?

Grief can, in fact, lead to mental illness in some cases. It doesn’t necessarily cause the mental disorder, but it can be the event that triggers the onset of the disorder. Grief can be the starting point of a variety of mental illnesses, including depression, alcohol or substance use disorders, or anxiety disorders, such as PTSD, phobias, or panic disorder. Grief can also trigger the onset of bipolar disorder, often with the manic phase coming soon after the death.

Can Grief Cause Chronic Depression?

Although not everyone who grieves will develop chronic depression, it does happen to many people. Losing someone close to you through their death changes your life dramatically. So, this is a significant time of risk and vulnerability.

When you can’t stop grieving, your grief may become a long-term and possibly even disabling mental condition. Chronic depression could mean major depressive disorder, in which you have episodes with severe symptoms of depression and possibly other times when you feel fine. Or, it could mean persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia, in which you have symptoms that last at least two months at a time and often come and go for years. Some people have dysthymia along with major depressive disorder, often called “double depression.”

Is It Grief or Mental Illness?

Grief may be the trigger for chronic depression. However, many of the same symptoms of grief are also symptoms of depression. The crying, sleep and appetite changes, trouble concentrating, or low self-esteem, could be signs of either grief or depression, or both. So, how do you know what is happening to you?

At Georgetown Behavioral Hospital, we have mental health experts who can sort out your symptoms, history, and current situation to determine whether your grief has brought on a mental illness. We only accept voluntary admissions, meaning that it is completely your choice whether to seek treatment with us.

If grief and mental illness are disrupting your life, we invite you to come to Georgetown Behavioral Hospital for diagnosis and treatment. Here, we provide top-quality mental health care for people with complicated grief or any of the mental health challenges it can trigger. Our GBH facility serves people in Southern Ohio and surrounding areas.

We dedicate each day to creating an environment where you can feel comfortable and learn better ways to deal with mental health issues. From grief to depression or even PTSD, mental illnesses

triggered by grief can cause you a world of trouble. At GBH, we are here to help you move beyond it to the life you deserve.

Could your grief be causing you mental health problems? Contact Georgetown Behavioral Hospital today for the compassionate care you need.

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