BACKGROUND: Diagnostic criteria for prolonged grief have appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM-5; persistent complex bereavement disorder, PCBD) and in the ICD-11 (prolonged grief disorder, PGD), and the question of which diagnosis is most clinically useful has been hotly debated. This study provides the first longitudinal comparison of PCBD and PGD in their ability to capture symptom change over time and their relation to long-term outcomes.
METHODS: A community sample was recruited consisting of 282 individuals who had recently lost a spouse. Structured clinical interviews were conducted at 3, 14, and 25 months postloss for symptoms corresponding to PCBD and PGD criteria. Outcomes at 25 months included PCBD and PGD caseness, depression, global functioning, and interviewer ratings of participant suffering.
RESULTS: PCBD and PGD trajectories determined by growth mixture modeling, each captured three primary outcomes: resilience, moderate-improving symptoms, and prolonged-stable symptoms. The PGD solution also identified trajectories of increasing and decreasing distress: prolonged-worsening and acute-recovering symptoms. Prediction of 25-month outcomes indicated differences conforming to the severity of PGD symptoms, and the prolonged-worsening trajectory was associated with the worst adjustment.
CONCLUSIONS: PGD symptoms were more differentiated, better-captured psychopathology, and other outcomes and were more sensitive to change over time compared to PCBD.
BACKGROUND: Complicated and persistent grief reactions afflict approximately 10% of bereaved individuals and are associated with severe disruptions of functioning. These maladaptive patterns were defined in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as persistent complex bereavement disorder (PCBD), but its criteria remain debated. The condition has been studied using network analysis, showing potential for an improved understanding of PCBD. However, previous studies were limited to self-report and primarily originated from a single archival dataset. To overcome these limitations, we collected structured clinical interview data from a community sample of newly conjugally bereaved individuals (N = 305).
METHODS: Gaussian graphical models (GGM) were estimated from PCBD symptoms diagnosed at 3, 14, and 25 months after the loss. A directed acyclic graph (DAG) was generated from initial PCBD symptoms, and comorbidity networks with DSM-5 symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were analyzed 1 year post-loss.
RESULTS: In the GGM, symptoms from the social/identity PCBD symptoms cluster (i.e. role confusion, meaninglessness, and loneliness) tended to be central in the network at all assessments. In the DAG, yearning activated a cascade of PCBD symptoms, suggesting how symptoms lead into psychopathological configurations. In the comorbidity networks, PCBD and depressive symptoms formed separate communities, while PTSD symptoms divided in heterogeneous clusters.
CONCLUSIONS: The network approach offered insights regarding the core symptoms of PCBD and the role of persistent yearnings. Findings are discussed regarding both clinical and theoretical implications that will serve as a step toward a more integrated understanding of PCBD.