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Psychosom Med. 1993 May-Jun;55(3):260-73.

Pathological grief: diagnosis and explanation.

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Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, University of California, San Francisco.


Pathological grief deserves a place in the diagnostic nomenclature. Because posttraumatic stress disorder requires an event beyond the range of usual experience and bereavement is virtually a universal experience, a new diagnosis of signs and symptoms precipitated by a loss event is needed. Many varieties of pathological grief have been noted in clinical research studies, and multiple diagnoses of pathological grief would make research difficult. The authors advance a solution in a personality-based explanation of abnormal responses to loss events; this allows for a single diagnosis of pathological grief. The authors also present a predictive model to partially explain pathological grief by antecedent trait combinations. The hypothesis is that persons with a preloss combination of both contradictions in relational schemas about the deceased and tendencies toward excessive control to stifle unwanted affect will tend to have unsuccessful processes of mourning. Types of contradictions and overcontrol may vary, yielding personality-based varieties of response within a single diagnostic category.

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