After giving birth, it is common for women to experience postpartum depression, and it is even more common for them to experience a bout of the “baby blues.” Symptoms of depression and anxiety are thought to be caused by rapid changes in reproductive hormones, the stress of taking care of a new baby, and past experience or familial history with depression and anxiety.
While there has been much research and discussion about postpartum depression in new mothers, there is evidence that suggests postpartum depression may affect more than 10 percent of new fathers as well.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Lack of interest in daily activities
- Trouble concentrating on work or other daily tasks
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of joy when looking at or thinking of the baby
While depression is a serious matter, many new parents suffering from postpartum depression have an even more difficult time dealing with the accompanying anxiety. Let’s look a little closer at some of these symptoms:
- Worry – After adding a child to the family, it’s common for some new parents to worry about additional bills, and if they will fit into the budget. They may also feel an added sense of protectiveness or responsibility that they’ve never felt before. It may be difficult to enjoy the baby with so much additional stress that may accompany him or her.
- Obsessive thoughts – For some parents, obsessive thoughts can be the most troubling part of all symptoms. They may see a violent image in their mind of something horrible happening to their child, or they may have a sexual thought about their baby. Then, the obsessive thought compounds itself as the mother or father begins to wonder why he or she would ever think about such awful things.
- Panic attacks – Both worry and obsessive thoughts can act separately or collectively to lead to physical symptoms such as panic attacks. Panic attacks can be very frightening and aren’t to be taken lightly.
Worry and obsessive thoughts can be very difficult to overcome. The only true way to purge one’s self of them is to confront these emotions head on. Do not fight them – accept them for what they are.
If you are nervous about your finances or the new responsibility you have in your life, try to open yourself up to your worries. Talk to your spouse about them, seek advice from your parents, friends, or other people who have children. You will likely find that you aren’t even close to being alone, and that many new parents felt just like you are feeling now. Oftentimes, not feeling alone in your struggles is the catalyst to get you out of your rut.
And if something such as finances is troubling you, try to compartmentalize what you can do to help your financial situation. Try to avoid looking at the big picture all at once. Small victories can be the key to winning the war against your worries.
Now, obsessive thoughts can be truly challenging to tackle; however, it can be done. If you are seeing violent images of your child, perhaps even yourself performing these horrific or sexual acts, you MUST understand that they are simply images. As much as we fight our minds, our minds tend to fight back. It is a matter of letting go and accepting these images for what they are.
If you can’t get rid of these images, try the following: Go to a private place, one that perhaps is special to you. Bringing along music that moves you is also important. Close your eyes, and let these images creep back into your mind, if they aren’t already there. Do not fight, but accept them. Play these images forward, then backwards. Put Dumbo ears on the image, throw in some confetti, smash a cake in its face – Prove to yourself and your mind that what you are seeing is complete fantasy. Remind yourself how happy you are to be a new parent. Don’t hold back your tears.
These obsessive thoughts can be difficult to overcome, but understand that you are not alone.
If you are having a difficult time getting rid of obsessive thoughts, worry, anxiety or any other symptoms of postpartum depression, or if you are just having a difficult time adjusting to parenthood, remember that counseling can be an important tool in helping you to feel yourself again.