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June 1, 2005

Is Grief a Disease? Sometimes.

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Dr Glass is Deputy Editor, JAMA, and is with the Department of Psychiatry, Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.

JAMA. 2005;293(21):2658-2660. doi:10.1001/jama.293.21.2658

In a classic 1961 article,1 Engel posed the question “Is grief a disease?” After a consideration of the typical characteristics of grief—the initial shock and disbelief in response to an important loss followed by painful experiences of loss and sadness, often with a sense of emptiness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in usual activities, followed by the “work of mourning,” an often prolonged phase of restitution and recovery—Engel concluded that “the experience of uncomplicated grief also represents a manifest and gross departure from the dynamic state considered representative of health and well being.”1(p20) Engel thus viewed grief as an appropriate topic for clinical research.

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