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Have you been a one-woman worry machine since you have had a baby? You may be wondering if you are suffering from postpartum depression a

Anxiety is an emotion that encompasses worry, fear, and nervousness. [1] Anxiety, which exists on a spectrum ranging from mild and slightly unsettling to severe and debilitating, goes hand and hand with angry outbursts in a subset of sufferers  [2].

It is normal for new mothers — who are physically recovering from pregnancy and childbirth, and emotionally adjusting to daily life with a new baby as well as existentially adapting to a rather new role in life, whether they just had their first baby or their seventh — to experience some degree of anxiety and irritability. Looking after a new baby while sleep-deprived and sore is, after all, no easy feat! When you find that your postpartum anger and anxiety are interfering with your daily life, however, the worry that something is wrong with you may be added to the laundry list of worries you were already dealing with. 

 

Are anxiety and anger during the postpartum period possible signs of postpartum depression?

The Correlation Between Anxiety And Depression

We tend to think of postpartum depression as a major depressive episode that occurs during the postpartum period — generally within 30 weeks after the baby's birth. Its diagnostic criteria include a depressed mood (which means you may feel sad, feel like crying all the time, and experience feelings of hopelessness and emptiness), feelings of guilt and worthlessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities one previously found meaningful. Other possible symptoms are loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue and low energy, feelings of harming your baby and suicidal thoughts after having a baby. [3]

While some data estimates that between 10 and 20 percent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety [4], meaning that postpartum depression and anxiety are grouped together as if they were one and the same disorder, other research notes that there is a distinct lack of reliable data on anxiety in new mothers, due to limitations on the screening systems currently in place [5].

 

One thing that is clear, however, is that depression and anxiety are closely correlated. One study found, for instance, that 92 percent of severely depressed patients who made serious suicide attempts were also suffering from debilitating anxiety [6]. 

 

A study of new mothers likewise found that a significant minority of those suffering from postpartum depression, 24.6 percent, simultaneously displayed symptoms of anxiety. This led to the conclusion that postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are indeed frequently comorbid, which means they occur at the same time [7]. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Postpartum Anxiety?

The symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder [see: 3] are:

  • Excessive worry and anxiety, which you find very difficult to disengage from. During the postpartum period, when you are a new parent, this may include worries that you are not a good parent, about how others will affect your baby, or about your baby's health. 
  • Feeling edgy and restless. 
  • Irritability, in other words those angry outbursts, which may or may not be apparent to others around you. 
  • Muscle aches and feeling sore. 

 

The remaining symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder — fatigue and low energy, insomnia or excessive sleeping, and trouble concentrating — are also specifically associated with postpartum depression. 

 

It is, of course, possible to have suffered from an anxiety disorder, including GAD, before your pregnancy and postpartum period and to experience an increase in symptoms after you have had a baby [8]. Should you never have suffered from irritability, depression and anxiety before, however, it is quite likely that you are dealing with comorbid postpartum anxiety and depression. 

I Am Suffering From Anxiety, Irritability And Depression As A Postpartum Mother — What Now?

Whether you recognize yourself both in postpartum depression signs and anxiety symptoms, or you lean more towards the anxious end of the spectrum, it is clear that if you are suffering from intrusive mental health challenges that are interfering with your mood, your happiness, and your ability to care for yourself and your baby, you require help. 

The good news is that the treatment for severe anxiety and for a major depressive episode are the same. In both cases, talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy in particular, have been found to be of great benefit in improving symptoms, thus representing the mainstay of treatment. In both cases, antidepressant therapy — recommended for at least six to 12 months in cases of mothers suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety — have been proven to be very effective. [9]

In severe cases involving actively suicidal thoughts or infanticidal thoughts, inpatient treatment is recommended. Since hormonal upheaval also contributes to postpartum depression and anxiety, treatment with estrogen and progestins may also be advised as an experimental treatment that may benefit you [10]. 

 

If you know you are feeling "off", your anxiety and anger seem to have become chronic, lasting beyond two weeks postpartum, it is time to seek help for your postpartum depression and anxiety — knowing that there is no shame in experiencing these feelings, but you do require assistance to overcome them. 

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