Whether you are currently pregnant, already have children, or know someone who does, you have undoubtedly heard of postpartum depression (PPD).
But have you heard of postpartum anxiety (PPA)?
It’s almost as common as postpartum depression but isn’t talked about nearly as much. Both conditions present after giving birth and cause significant distress. And yet, the symptoms are very different.
That’s precisely why it’s essential to know as much as possible about postpartum anxiety, so you can get the help you need or encourage someone else who may be struggling to get treatment.
When Normal Worrying Turns Into Something More
When you’re a new parent, it’s perfectly natural to worry about your baby’s health and safety. You might wonder if they are eating enough, if they are sleeping like other babies do, or if they are developing on schedule. You might also be worried about the state of your own life (i.e., the pile of dishes in the sink or how you’ll possibly juggle all of your new obligations).
These things are natural. A little worrying shows how much you care for and love your baby and want what’s best for him or her. However, these everyday worries can sometimes turn into something more.
If you find that your fears are keeping you awake at night or completely taking over your thoughts, you may be dealing with postpartum anxiety.
What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety?
How can you tell when your typical worries have gone too far? Understanding some of the most common signs of postpartum anxiety (PPA) can make you aware of whether you might be struggling with PPA. The most prominent symptoms include:
· Constant worrying or fear that doesn’t go away
· Feelings of dread
· Continually thinking about bad things that could happen
· Sleep that is disrupted by your worries/fears
· Concentration problems
Your symptoms may also present themselves physically. As a new mother, that’s probably the last thing you want to hear. Your body is still recovering, and you might be experiencing some physical issues from giving birth. Some of the physical symptoms to look out for with postpartum anxiety are:
· Racing heart
Postpartum Panic Attacks
Individuals with PPA may sometimes experience panic attacks. A panic attack can feel like a few moments of extreme fear and dread, along with physical symptoms such as:
· Shortness of breath
· Racing heart
· Chest pain
· Hot flashes
· Fear of “going crazy”
The panic attack may also be accompanied by an overwhelming fear of death, whether you’re thinking about yourself or your baby. The good news is that these attacks don’t last long. However, they can be terrifying to go through.
Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one type of postpartum anxiety disorder, and it is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed postpartum condition. If you are struggling with this disorder, you would be experiencing repetitive and intrusive thoughts or images (obsessions) that are often related to the baby and can consist of frightening thoughts about harming the baby in some way. You may be frightened or ashamed to admit to having these thoughts because you are scared of what your doctor or therapist might think. It is important for you to know that if you are struggling with postpartum OCD, you are not likely to act on the thoughts that you are having. You cannot control what comes into your mind, but you can control your behavior, and there is no link between postpartum OCD and harming your child.
In addition to the obsessions, in postpartum OCD you also experience compulsions which are behaviors that you engage in to reduce the anxiety that the obsessions cause. Some common compulsions involve keeping the baby away from dangerous situations (the stairs), cleaning constantly, or checking/counting items. While postpartum OCD is often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, if you see a therapist trained in postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, you can receive the correct treatment, and with treatment your symptoms should improve.
What Can You Do About Postpartum Anxiety?
The first step in getting treatment for postpartum anxiety is getting a proper diagnosis. That’s why it’s essential to recognize the signs and know that PPA is a common problem for many new mothers.
You can talk with your doctor or start looking for a therapist that specializes in postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Treatment options include individual therapy, support groups, and/or treatment with medication. Often people benefit from a combination of treatment approaches. Reaching out for help can be difficult, but is the first step towards feeling more like yourself again.
If you feel you are dealing with postpartum anxiety and you’re unsure how to handle it, feel free to contact me. Together, we will discuss some of the possible underlying causes and work on ways you can overcome your fears.
Postpartum anxiety, much like PPD, doesn’t last forever. Working through it can help you start to more thoroughly enjoy this exciting stage of life with your newborn. Contact me today if you’re ready to start feeling like yourself again.