Grief Versus Depression: Similarities And Dissimilarities



More often than not, a lot of people interchange depression with grief. While both manifest comparable symptoms, they are entirely different. According to Christopher Lane Ph.D.,  “Doctors can – and should – be able to distinguish grief, a normal response to loss, from depression, a mental disorder.”


Having a good grasp of the similarities and differences of grief and depression is crucial in seeking help and treatment. While knowing how to cope with grief will help people to eventually pull through, knowing what to do with depression can save a life.


The difference lies in the way the two are experienced antithetically. Because symptoms are alike, there are complications regarding differentiating one from the other, and for this reason, the distinction is vital.


Distinguishing Grief from Depression

Due to the overlapping of symptoms, knowing the dissimilarities of grief and depression can be quite challenging. To settle discrepancies once and for all, here are facts about grief and depression with their similarities and dissimilarities.

Margaret Wehrenberg, PsyD explains that “Sadness over loss is not depression. Grief must be experienced, not stifled or medicated.” She adds, “But people can become depressed from persistent and unremitting stress, or as the outcome of trauma.”



  1. Loss Is A Significant Qualifier

So between grief and depression, which accounts for loss as the primary qualifier? It’s grief. Grief is primarily due to the death of someone or something that has been a considerable part of a person’s life; this could either be a significant other, a parent, a pet, a job, or a child. Grief is intrinsic in human existence and it is important to note that it comes and eventually goes. “Grief tends to occur in waves; it has an ebb and flow to it,” Leon F Seltzer Ph.D. describes.


Depression, on the other hand, is inevitably related to internal causes, which means that loss might be involved. However, it is just a way to worsen the mental illness and is not mainly the reason why the condition happened in the first place. Depression is a psychological disorder that incapacitates those who experience it due to several factors like:


  • Genetics or a family history
  • Psychological and environmental causes
  • Stress and pressure
  • Major life altercations and changes
  • Pre-existing physical conditions
  • Substance or alcohol abuse




  1. Onset And Duration Play A Huge Part

Unresolved grief can worsen and turn into complicated grief which somehow has similar symptoms to depression. Here, what is presumed to be a natural grieving process has gotten more severe and intense that it lasts for more than six months. Out of extreme guilt and the feeling of being mainly responsible for the loss, the grieving process has been extended. Sometimes, complicated grief has become severe that it reaches a point where the person is having difficulties accepting the loss. Most of those who are experiencing complicated grief may yearn to see or talk to the deceased and sometimes get upset with feelings of emptiness and loneliness.


When talking about onset and duration, depression is primarily triggered by a particular life-changing event, death included, and the feeling of melancholia can cloud the mind and affect the person for more than six months and can persist for years if untreated. Furthermore, depression requires monitoring because depressed people tend to have bouts of suicidal ideations. People who are depressed have minds that are flooded with negative thoughts and feelings that are difficult to ignore.


  1. Prevalence Is An Important Aspect

Grief is universal; while depression, even if experienced by people all over the world, is uncommon. One way or another, everyone will go through loss and will eventually get over it. Depression, being a mental disorder, can only affect a percentage of the population. As previously indicated, grief is mainly caused by a deficit in a person’s normalcy and is not due to biology, whereas one of the leading reasons for the existence of depression is a family history and not everyone has it in their genes.


The Similarities

Due to these similarities, people tend to identify which is which mistakenly. What are the typical coincidences?


  • Fatigue and inadequate energy to perform
  • Disturbed sleeping pattern
  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Mixed emotions of sadness and anger
  • Not wanting to participate in enjoyable activities
  • Sense of despair with episodes of considering suicide


Handling Grief and Depression

Whether it’s you or someone you know, managing grief and depression is essential for immediate recovery.


Dealing with bereavement is a trying time. Here are the ways on how to handle grief:


  • Embrace and accept the loss and the pain that comes along with it.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself; death is part of life that everyone has to experience.
  • Comparing other people’s grief to yours is not beneficial for your path to self-healing; people grieve differently.
  • Follow regular routines and as much as possible, do not introduce changes in your life anytime
  • Veer away from drugs or alcohol for it may cause further complications and can lengthen or worsen your grieving process.
  • Reach out to family and friends.




Dealing with depression can be much more specific. The treatment options are as follows:


  • Psychotherapy
  • Medications
  • Exercise and a healthy diet
  • Seeing a therapist and joining support groups


The bottom line is, whether it’s grief or depression, what matters is how you cope. It is advised that self-care and mental health treatments should be considered significantly so that none of the two can affect your life and relationships.