Brazilian Natural Medicine

Prolonged grief is a mental disorder, according to the World Health Organization — Português (Brazil)

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In 2022, prolonged grief was considered a mental disorder in the new version of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) diagnostic manual for mental disorders and also in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), prepared by the World Health Organization. (WHO). Grief is a natural process, characterized by suffering and longing, usually triggered by the loss of something or someone.

Any situation linked to an affective bond and that for some reason leads to loss, can trigger grief. But this process can become a nuisance when it goes on for long periods, causing constant pain, where the person becomes unable to restore their life in a functional way.

Prolonged grief has symptoms similar to depression and anxiety. Difference is the motivating factor for suffering. In prolonged grief, loss will always be the trigger.

Psychologist and professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), Samantha Mucci, explains that in the natural grieving process, loss is marked by acute pain that over time is re-signified, different from what happens. in prolonged mourning. “There are times when the person will be more focused on the loss and, in others, where he will return to his life of work and studies. When this individual becomes very lost and unable to resume life and reintegrate with memories, we can think of a protracted grieving process,” she details.

During childhood, care is also essential. “Until the age of 10, the child has no understanding of how death works, he thinks that the person can still come back, so he ends up creating fantasies and magical thoughts”, explains Samanta, who adds that mood disorders that are not treated in the childhood and adolescence contribute to the fact that in adulthood, the individual is more predisposed to the development of physical diseases and mental health disorders.


Among children and adolescents, prolonged grief is usually accompanied by feelings of abandonment and rejection. At this stage, some signs should be observed:

  • be isolated;
  • Be more withdrawn;
  • Having difficulty concentrating;
  • Having difficulty in socializing;
  • Show acute distress.

Grief is always linked to losses, but it is not only related to death. The loss of family ties due to the separation of parents, for example, can also be a trigger for prolonged grief.

In adult life, the main symptoms of prolonged grief are related to:

  • Difficulty concentrating;
  • Production difficulty;
  • Feeling of devaluation of life;
  • Feeling of incapacity.

“In adults, pain is much more linked to the will to live or not and the will to produce. The person begins to have symptoms such as loss of libido, of desire, of desire to date, to have a personal life. He also isolates himself, like children and adolescents, but with a different intensity”, explains the psychologist.


The Unified Health System (SUS) provides care for people in psychological distress through the services of the Psychosocial Care Network (RAPS). Primary Health Care is the gateway to care and plays a fundamental role in the approach to Mental Disorders, especially mild and moderate ones, not only because of its capillarity, but also for knowing the population, the territory and the social determinants that interfere in behavioral changes, offering better conditions to support care.

Different levels of complexity make up care, and the CAPS, in their different modalities, are strategic points of attention for the RAPS. Open and community-based health services, made up of a multiprofessional team that works from an interdisciplinary perspective, can be found. Multiprofessional Specialized Mental Health Teams (AMENT) are also available, which aim to treat moderate cases of anxiety and depression.

Yellow September

During the month of September, the Ministry of Health publishes a series of content on the importance of awareness and care for mental health. Information is the first step of any treatment. Follow:

Fran Martins
Ministry of Health

Official content – Fact Check – Verified

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