By Erin Tobiasz, MS, LMHC, psychotherapist
Depression and anxiety do not always look the way they do on TV ads – with images of women in bathrobes huddled on the sofa crying or sadly gazing out the window. Often times, depression and anxiety take on various forms with unexpected emotions that can make us think we’ve gone crazy! When women are pregnant and after giving birth, hormone surges can have major impact on their emotional state. If you experience some or all of these symptoms you may have PPD or PPA, which can look differently in different people. You are unique – so are your PPD and PPA. Talk to your doctor or midwife if you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms and seek therapy right away – we can help – you don’t have to do this alone.
Signs & Symptoms of PPD & PPA
Irritation – "This will be the best time of your life – cherish every moment". Not feeling it? Does the sound of people's voices bother you? Do you feel like you're going to "jump out of your skin"? Some women report high levels of irritation with PPD & PPA. Some mention that even their other children annoy them and things they used to love, like reading a magazine or going for coffee, have become pure aggravation.
Rage – Irritation's one thing, but outright rage is another. Some women experience rage they never knew they had. Feelings of anger so deep they want to physically tear things apart and throw them across the room. They want to yell, scream, cry, and throw a fit. The massive amount of hormones surging through and leaving your body after pregnancy can play tricks on your emotions and may leave you feeling like you've gone mad…then leave you feeling sorry afterward.
Brain Matters – Forgetfulness, scattered thoughts, "brain fog", feeling dazed, "all over the place", and "not with it", are common for some women with PPD or PPA. This lack of clarity does not make it easy to care for a newborn and can feel overwhelming and complicated.
Scary Thoughts – Intrusive thoughts can be very scary – they are thoughts you do NOT want to have and wouldn't normally think. They can be very upsetting and can be about things you wouldn't want to tell anyone else or even admit to yourself. Ruminating thoughts can drive you crazy! They can be any kind of thought, from what you need to do, to what you could have done better, to what you wish your husband would do, to how skinny you were in 10th grade – usually they're pretty self-destructive and unproductive. These thoughts seem to go on, and on, and on, with no end in sight.
Physical Symptoms – "Just nap when the baby naps" – yeah right! Not with all those thoughts racing through your mind. Insomnia is a common physical symptom of PPD & PPA and may be contributed to a number of factors. Lack of sleep can increase the severity of depression and anxiety related symptoms, making things seem worse. It can also make you feel lethargic and exhausted. Some women experience physical pain like stomach aches and headaches or exacerbated pains in old injuries. Some feel achy or like everything hurts. Smells may nauseate you, the sight of food may turn your stomach, or food may become an emotional support or outlet.
Baby Bonding Issues – It can be really scary when you don't feel connected to your baby, especially when those around you keep talking about how wonderful it is to be a new mom. You may feel like your baby is a series of non-stop chores and a constant aggravation that must continually be managed and maintained. Some women with PPD & PPA do NOT experience feelings of loving or caring toward their baby – they feel indifferent, apathetic, and disinterested.
Numbness – Not all women experience strong emotions. Some women feel…nothing…which can be the scariest of all. Some say that they feel empty or disconnected, as if they are floating above their lives, not really a part of it. Some just go through the motions, a shell of a woman looking out at the world from behind listless, hollow eyes. This can be an incredibly isolated, lonely, and remote place where you think no one could possibly understand you. Come to therapy, we understand, and we can help you.
While PPD and PPA are common, they are not normal – you do NOT have to feel this way. This is not how motherhood should be and not how your life should be.
There are effective treatments that can help you. Take the first steps on your road to recovery and talk to your doctor or midwife and seek therapy today!
We are here to help you. You can do this.
For more information on PPD & PPA, visit www.postpartum.net
Erin is especially equipped at treating PPD and PPA from her years working with OBGYN doctors and midwives as a birth assistant, working closely with trauma victims through the processes of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
We hope that this handout has been helpful to you. At the Counseling Center of New Smyrna Beach we have several therapist who can assist you in getting the treatment you need. If we can be of help please call 386.423.9161 today. Start living your legacy!