The Medicalization of Bereavement: (Ab)normal Grief in the DSM-5

Death Stud. 2015;39(6):347-52. doi: 10.1080/07481187.2014.951498. Epub 2015 Apr 23.


This article examines the recently published changes to eliminate the bereavement exclusion (BE) from the criteria for the diagnosis of major depression in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5). Numerous scholars and critics have expressed concerns by calling these changes a "medicalization" of grief. This article first considers the removal of the BE and then examines the macrolevel and microlevel consequences of this medicalization of grief, including overdiagnosis and overtreatment, a potential expanded market for pharmaceutical companies, and the loss of traditional and cultural methods of adapting to the loss of a loved one.

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders*
  • Grief
  • Humans
  • Medical Overuse
  • Medicalization*