Category Archives: Anxiety

Postpartum Depression

Risk Factors, Symptoms, and What To Do

Take a Screening Test for PPD

The Baby Blues has become as much an accepted part of being a new mother as engorged breasts and sleep deprivation. But what if the Blues don’t go away? For 10-20% of new mothers, Postpartum Depression (PPD) is an unwanted and difficult part of the first year of motherhood. The causes of PPD are many, and can include hormonal and lifestyle changes, a lack of social support, sleep deprivation, a high-risk pregnancy, a traumatic birth or difficult recovery, or breastfeeding problems. You are also at a higher risk of PPD if you have suffered previously from depression, or have recent losses or trauma in your life. Symptoms of PPD and related disorders can include:

  • Feeling sad, depressed, numb, or crying a lot
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Unusually strong feelings of anger or resentment
  • Lack of energy
  • Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations, numbness, tingling, dizziness or nausea, hyperventilation or other unexplained physical symptoms
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive tiredness
  • Loss of appetite or conversely, overeating and weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions, or confusion
  • Excessive worry about the baby or lack of interest in the baby
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors
  • Fear of hurting the baby or yourself

Many mothers experience only a few of these symptoms, but if you feel like something is wrong and you’re not quite yourself, that is an important signal. If these symptoms persist for two weeks or more, the mother should promptly get support by talking to her doctor or a mental health professional. PPD is a highly treatable condition, with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

If you need medication and you are told that you must give up breastfeeding, make sure you get the advice of a psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about medications for breastfeeding mothers. There are a few antidepressants which are routinely prescribed for breastfeeding mothers with untraceable amounts detectable in the baby’s bloodstream. Moreover, breastfeeding can be beneficial both for the depressed mother, the long-term health of her baby, and bonding, which is even more challenging when a mother is depressed.

Depression not only affects you: it affects your relationships with your partner and your baby. Untreated, depression can lead to bonding difficulties and delayed development or failure to thrive. Getting the help you need to recover quickly is the best thing you can do for your baby and yourself.

Most importantly, tell your support people (your family, friends, partner) how you are feeling. The burden of trying to seem happy and “keeping it all together” can make the depression worse. You need to lean on the people who care about you, get as much help as you need until you’re back to feeling like yourself, and don’t beat yourself up for having PPD. It is NOT YOUR FAULT.

The Mindful Parent: Learning How to Let Go

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“There are so many things we benefit from learning to let go of as parents—comparing our children to others, expecting them to be the people we imagined they would be, attempting to be a perfect housekeeper/caregiver/playmate/chef/lover (insert unrealistic expectation here), and, on some days, even expecting to take a shower!” Read More…

Coping with Anxiety Using Mindfulness

anxietyYou know the feeling when it starts: an unpleasant burning in your chest or abdomen, a feeling of cold on the back of your neck, tingling in your arms, or tightness in the back of your throat. Anxiety is a physical phenomenon. Many of us are unaware of the specific physical sensations associated with our anxiety, but it sends a signal to our brain that we are in danger. On its own, anxiety tends to pass quickly and without much ado. It is the way we attribute meaning to the sensations in our body that causes anxiety to feel unbearable and to stick around. We interpret our anxiety as being “out of control.” We look to our environment for signals that we really are in danger, either physically or emotionally. And we beat ourselves up for feeling anxious, telling ourselves “What is wrong with me?” “Why can’t I feel calm?” And even worse, “I can’t tolerate feeling this way.”

But in reality, we can tolerate anxiety. By tolerating it and observing its physical manifestations, we rob it of its power over us. And over time, anxiety will diminish if we refuse to escalate it by letting it take over our thoughts.

Mindfulness is one of the most powerful tools for coping with and transforming anxiety. While it may feel like WE ARE anxious, bringing awareness to our body and choosing to focus on the specific physical sensations we are experiencing allows us to see that we are the observer of anxiety, not its victim. We can choose to halt self-defeating thoughts by returning awareness to our body and reminding ourselves “Anxiety cannot hurt me. It is only a feeling, and it is temporary. I am in control of myself. I can choose to be aware of the anxiety without letting it take over my thoughts.”

Practice doing mindfulness exercises such as this one when you are not feeling particularly anxious, as a way of being ready for anxiety when it comes. Learning to focus your full attention on your body rather than your thoughts takes some practice, but only five minutes a day can make a huge difference in reducing anxiety and helping you cope with it when it comes.

Anxiety is often associated with depression, even if the depression is not severe. Taking steps to address negative patterns of thinking, grieving losses, and learning to take better care of ourselves physically and emotionally is another important step in dealing with anxiety. If you need help to learn to identify and challenge negative thoughts, work through with past trauma or loss, or learn to improve your self-care and relationships, finding a therapist you trust is a great place to start.

People-Pleasing Moms: At Risk

Sad new mom holding baby - people-pleasing momsOne of the common themes I come across when working with mothers experiencing depression and anxiety is perfectionism and people-pleasing. Moms get worn out when they are trying to make everyone happy all the time.

There are often good reasons for a tendency to be over-responsible for the feelings of others. Many of us come from families where there was an unspoken expectation that a child must be “good,” because one or both parents were unable to tolerate the challenge of even normal childhood misbehavior. Or sometimes, children develop an unconscious habit of caretaking for others as a way to get their own needs met.

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