New Targeted Therapy Helps Overcome Disabling Grief

Complicated Grief  (see NIHM – 13)

Recent research has identified the public health significance of a previously overlooked syndrome in adults who have lost a loved one. Complicated grief, a seriously debilitating condition with symptoms similar to both depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), affects about 10% to 20%7,8 of people suffering the loss of a loved one, or about one million people a year. While grief and depression are generally normal and adaptive responses to loss, in complicated grief the feelings of loss and disbelief do not go away after several months and become disabling, often for years. A targeted treatment developed specifically for complicated grief showed a better response in bereaved individuals when compared with interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), a proven treatment for grief-related depression. The targeted grief treatment employs techniques used to treat depression but which are modified to include PTSD therapies that address issues of trauma and loss-specific distress. In a randomized controlled trial of 95 individuals with complicated grief, 51% of those treated with the targeted therapy showed improved scores on various measures of depression, compared with only 28% showing improvement from IPT. Thus, by using a targeted treatment specific to the features of complicated grief, many with this debilitating condition can once again become productive and lead pleasurable lives.

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