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J Nerv Ment Dis. 2011 Feb;199(2):66-73. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31820840c5.

Did narrowing the major depression bereavement exclusion from DSM-III-R to DSM-IV increase validity?: evidence from the National Comorbidity Survey.

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  • 1Silver School of Social Work, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.


The DSM's major-depression "bereavement exclusion" eliminates bereavement-related depressive episodes (BRDs) from diagnosis unless they are "complicated" by prolonged duration or certain severe symptoms. The exclusion was substantially narrowed in DSM-IV to decrease false-negative diagnoses, but the impact of this change remains unknown. We divided BRDs in the National Comorbidity Survey into uncomplicated versus complicated categories using broader DSM-III-R and narrower DSM-IV exclusion criteria. Using 6 pathology validators (symptom number, melancholic depression, suicide attempt, interference with life, medication for depression, and hospitalization for depression), we compared the validity of the 2 exclusion criteria sets using 2 tests: (1) which criteria set yielded less pathological uncomplicated cases or more pathological complicated cases; (2) which yielded the largest separation between uncomplicated and complicated pathology levels. Results of both tests indicated that the narrower DSM-IV criteria substantially decreased the exclusion's validity. These results suggest caution regarding the current proposal to eliminate the bereavement exclusion in DSM-5.

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