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Treating 'Complicated Grief' -- New NIMH Study Seeks 200 Older Adults Suffering from Unrelenting Symptoms of Complicated Grief for Participation in Non-Drug Clinical Trial

Psychiatrist Dr. Katherine Shear searches for treatment of prolonged grief that does not abate over time

NEW YORK, April 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Unlike normal grief, which though intense improves over time, "complicated grief" is the inability to ever recover after the death of a loved one.

Characterized by prolonged intense yearning and preoccupation with the lost loved one, waves of sadness and longing, bitter protest, caregiver self-blame, and a feeling of profound emptiness that does not lessen with time, complicated grief may be more prevalent in older people than in younger adults. It destroys sufferers' lives for years, is not cured through traditional talk or drug therapies, and has seemed resistant to almost all treatment.

M. Katherine Shear, MD, the Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry at the Columbia University School of Social Work and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, is an expert in the study and treatment of complicated grief. Dr. Shear has developed new treatments for the condition, and now is seeking 200 participants from the New York area, aged 60 or older, for a new clinical study.

"The death of a loved one can take an especially devastating toll on an older adult," says Dr. Shear. "Older people may experience a cascade of losses as their social circles become smaller. The death of a close attachment, be it spouse, adult child, friend, parent, or sibling -- along with the social, financial and medical issues that accompany it -- can throw an individual into a discouraging downward spiral. People who continue to struggle with bereavement after more than six months may be experiencing complicated grief. We believe we can help."

Dr. Shear's study will provide sufferers with 16 weekly treatment sessions over a four-month period. The sessions will be provided on an outpatient basis at the Late Life Depression Clinic of the New York State Psychiatric Institute in Manhattan. Participation is free.

It is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, with the Columbia University School of Social Work and New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Symptoms of complicated grief more than six months after the loss include:

  • Strong yearning for the person who died
  • Waves of intense sadness and longing
  • Feeling of disbelief or difficulty accepting the death
  • Avoiding things that are reminders of the loss
  • Bitterness or anger
  • Feeling cut off or distant from others or intense loneliness
  • Having many unstoppable thoughts, memories, or images of the person who died
  • Feeling life is empty or meaningless without the lost loved one
  • Feeling that grieving less would be betraying one's loved one or that grief is all that is left of the person

If you are -- or know of someone -- age 60 or older and have been bereaved for six months or longer, you can receive additional information on how to enroll in the study by contacting Rachel Fox, project coordinator, at 212-851-2107 or

If you would like to know more about complicated grief, or interview Dr. Katherine Shear, please contact Davia Temin or Christine Summerson of Temin and Company at 212-588-8788 or

    Available Topic Expert:
    Katherine Shear, MD, Marion E. Kenworthy Professor of Psychiatry Columbia
    University School of Social Work

    For information on the listed expert, click appropriate link.

SOURCE Temin and Company
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