Recognizing postpartum depression might not be as easy as you think.
There are two reasons for this:
- It doesn’t always look like typical depression
- Many women will hide their symptoms and suffering for fear of being judged
Some mothers will experience more classic depression symptoms where it is difficult to function, they do not want to leave their bed and it is evident they are not doing well. However, for many mother’s postpartum depression can be experienced as a more agitated depression with higher levels of anxiety as the predominant symptom. It may be more difficult to recognize these symptoms or they may be misunderstood as “she is just tired.”
Here are some more subtle symptoms to be on the lookout for:
Symptom #1 – Guilt & Shame
You feel like you are not cut out to be a mom and that you made a terrible mistake. You feel like a failure and that you “suck” at being a mother. You think you are a bad mother, a terrible partner and that somehow you are damaged and worthless. All of this brings tremendous feelings of guilt and shame. The shame has you hiding these thoughts and feelings for fear of being judged or worse, having your partner want to leave you because you are not the woman he thought you were.
Symptom #2 -Feeling Overwhelmed
You don’t just feel overwhelmed at particularly hard moments, you feel overwhelmed ALL THE TIME. You feel paralyzed by the demand and responsibility upon you and you feel incapable of managing any of it. This leads to feeling like a failure and more feelings of guilt and shame.
Symptom #3 – You Can Not be Reassured
With the baby blues, it is normal to feel overwhelmed at moments and the kind words from your partner or a trusted friend help you to feel better. With postpartum depression, you feel overwhelmed, anxious, and sad and the words of reassurance sound like lies. You can’t take them in, and they provide zero comfort for you. Often, they can leave you feeling more misunderstood and angry.
Symptom #4 – Feeling Disconnected from Your Baby
The dream of instantly falling in love with your baby turns into a nightmare experience of not feeling anything. This goes far beyond bonding taking time to develop, which is normal. You may not even want to take care of your baby and find ways to have others take over the care.
Symptom #5 – Feeling Inadequate
You are convinced that you are not cut out to be a mother and you feel utterly hopeless and inadequate. You do not feel equipped to take care of this baby and wonder if the baby would be better off being cared for by someone else. If you had hoped to breastfeed and it did not go well and you switched to formula feeding, this is more evidence of your inadequacy and failing as a mother and a woman.
Symptom #6 – Anger & Irritability
You feel intense anger and irritability, often snapping at your partner over the slightest thing. It is also common to feel resentment towards your baby for putting you through this. Some women describe feeling filled with rage, which is terrifying to them.
Symptoms #7 – Fear that your Baby Doesn’t Like You
You interpret your baby’s cries and fussiness as an indication that they do not like you. You don’t feel fit to be a mother and you feel that somehow your baby knows this too and is holding it against you. Many moms who are struggling will say, “my baby hates me.”
Symptom #8 – Fantasies of Escape
You fantasize about driving away and never coming back fully believing your family would be better off without you. You may consider placing your baby for adoption. You may have a wish to escape by death and that if you were killed in an accident, that would be a relief. Thoughts of wanting to kill yourself can also occur and need to be taken seriously with professional intervention from a therapist or medical provider.
by: Mary Joan Brinson MSW, RSW
Being a new mom is hard. We can accept that. But it should not leave you feeling miserable and hopeless. Although you may be feeling like a bad mom, that simply is not true. You have an illness. An illness that is not your fault. You did not do anything to bring this on – you simply got unlucky as are 1 of 7 women who experience postpartum depression.
You deserve to feel well and with help, that is possible.
Reach out to us today. We have therapists that specialize in Postpartum Depression Therapy and we are here to help you.