Why Don't I Feel Normal? Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are also called PMADs. These affect up to 80% of newly postpartum women. These disorders include Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Depression, Postpartum OCD, and Postpartum Psychosis. Any of these diagnoses could potentially lead a new mother to harm herself, her child or other loved ones around her. Why are you not hearing about them? Simple.
There is a stigma surrounding mental illness.
PMADs are often dismissed as hormones, overreacting or "normal". Many times we see older sisters, more experienced moms, or even grandmothers coming in and saying, "Oh, that's normal." What they don't understand is it's not normal.
While it is common, it's not normal.
Postpartum Anxiety is a psychological disorder wherein a large amount of anxiety interferes with one's ability to live, work, and take care of themselves. The symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) could include intrusive thoughts, inability to sleep, and irritability. Oftentimes the worry stems from nothing at all. It has actually been found to be more common than Postpartum Depression. Treatment could include talk therapy, psychotherapy, medication, diet and lifestyle changes. These are things that need to be addressed with a therapist and or a doctor. While lifestyle and diet changes can help, different levels of anxiety need different things.
Postpartum Depression is a feeling of severe despondency that occurs after the birth of a child. Typically it is brought on by a combination of hormone changes, exhaustion, and the general changes surrounding birth. Symptoms include tiredness, suicidal thoughts, suicidal tendencies, general loss of interest in things that were once interesting, inability to think clearly, and lower sex drive. Postpartum Depression (PPD) is typically what people think of when they hear the word "postpartum". Those who are experiencing PPD often have feelings of despair or hopelessness. Treatments include the same as PPA, including talk therapy, psychotherapy, medication, diet and lifestyle changes.
Postpartum OCD presents in less than 3% of postpartum women and is fairly rare. The onset is rapid and often includes intrusive thinking. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder could look like washing hands 3 times before you touch a baby every single time, washing baby many times a day to ensure there are no germs on them, or even putting things in a certain order because it feels safe. While it is quite common for new mothers to wash hands more frequently or be worried about cleanliness, PPOCD impacts and interferes with one's life. Treatments include Cognitave Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and sometimes medication.
Postpartum psychosis occurs when a woman has a break with reality. Oftentimes it presents itself with hallucinations, paranoia thoughts, dangerous action. If Postpartum Psychosis is suspected the only treatment is emergency treatment. Get her to an emergency room as soon as possible. Postpartum Psychosis can be a danger to her life as well as her baby's life and every other person in her path. It's not something that can be ridden out or waited on. It's vital she is seen quickly.
Need Help? Begin Here.
Postpartum Support International and Postpartum Progress offer online resources nationwide. In our area the Postpartum Resource Center is a good place to begin. Meeka Centimano is a well respected counselor in our area who specializes in newly postpartum mothers.
PMADs come with a debilitating stigma but they are also debilitating illnesses in and of themselves. It's important that we as friends and families pay attention and look for the warning signs of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. It really and truly could be life and death. There is help. It does get better and there is no shame in reaching out for the help that is important to your life and your baby's life.