What every mom with a history of anxiety should know
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the U.S., and are estimated to affect around 18% of the population. This proportion isn’t any lower in new parents, and, in fact, the large number of new stressors new parents face can increase the environmental factors that contribute to anxiety. There are a few different ways that having an anxiety disorder can have an impact on parents, ranging from the very personal to the more general, and stretching from shortly after birth to right through the parenting journey.
Anxiety disorders and the postpartum period
New moms who have had mental health problems in the past, including depression, bipolar disorder, or an anxiety disorder, have a higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression symptoms within the first year after giving birth. Postpartum depression, often referred to as PPD, isn’t the only mood disorder postpartum women face, though. Postpartum anxiety symptoms are estimated to be about as common as postpartum depression, and is probably caused by the same combination of hormonal changes and added stressors that can contribute to PPD.
Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are both treatable conditions. Parents who experience persistent symptoms of depression or anxiety, especially if these symptoms start to interfere with self-care or baby care, should seek help from a medical professional as soon as possible.
Parenting with an anxiety disorder
One thing to keep in mind when parenting with an anxiety disorder is that parents dealing with anxiety have an extra challenge to cope with, and may find themselves feeling overwhelmed or short on patience more often than they might otherwise. This is understandable, but it’s also something to keep in mind when responding emotionally. Another thing to remember is that, while parents can feel like their own needs should be pushed to the side in favor of their children’s needs, parents with anxiety who seek treatment, and who carefully stick to a treatment plan, are taking care of their children’s needs as much as they’re taking care of their own.
Parenting is a task which offers a range of new worries for every new parent, whether they're dealing with an anxiety disorder or not. When worries and concerns start to feel overwhelming, external resources like a healthcare provider, parent or other family member, or a partner can be great for checking in, to try to help set the level for worry about a concern.
- Michael G. Gottschalk. “Genetics of generalized anxiety disorder and related traits.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 19(2): 159-168. June 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573560/.
- C.-L. Dennis, K Falah-Hassani, H.K. Brown, S.N. Vigod. “Identifying women at risk for sustained postpartum anxiety.” Journal of Affective Disorders. 213: 131-137. 15 April 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2018. https://www.jad-journal.com/article/S0165-0327(16)32042-0/pdf.
- Golda S. Ginsburg, et al. “Preventing onset of anxiety disorders in offspring of anxious parents: a randomized controlled trial of a family-based intervention.” The American Journal of Psychiatry. 172(12). 25 September 2015. Retrieved 21 June 2018. https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.14091178.
- Brigit Katz. “How to avoid passing anxiety on to your kids.” Child Mind Institute. Child Mind Institute Inc. Retrieved June 21 2018. https://childmind.org/article/how-to-avoid-passing-anxiety-on-to-your-kids/.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Postpartum depression.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 11 August 2015. Retrieved June 21 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617.
- I. Shlomi Plachek, L. Huller Harari, M. Baum, R.D. Strous. “Postpartum anxiety in a cohort of women from the general population: risk factors and association with depression during last week of pregnancy, postpartum depression, and postpartum PTSD.” The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences. 51(2): 128-34. 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25372562.
- “Understanding anxiety.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. ADAA. Retrieved June 21 2018. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety.
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