Post Natal Depression is more than the “Baby Blues”.
Bringing a new baby into the world can be the most amazing and most terrifying thing that any of us will do. Through the roller-coaster ride of childbirth and caring for a new baby, many of us have experienced moments of sadness, anxiety, fear and shock in amongst the pure joy, elation and love that a newborn brings.
These feelings are entirely normal, and in fact, the ‘baby blues’ are a well-documented experience for many new mums in the hours and days following the birth of a baby. The baby blues will normally recede without intervention, but some mums continue to struggle to adapt to the new life they have very suddenly found themselves in.
It is when these negative feelings start to settle in and feature in day to day life that Post Natal Depression might be occurring.
Why do you feel depressed after giving birth?
The idea that this tiny little person is entirely dependent on you can be overwhelming, not to mention the total upheaval to your life and identity, and some mums start to question whether they are up for the job. You may find yourself constantly questioning whether you’re doing the right thing, or simply thinking that they would be better off without you.
Some mums may struggle to bond with their baby for a variety of reasons, and in some cases, find it too overwhelming to even hold him / her.
It can be difficult to see anything outside the groundhog day that is life with a young baby, and you may be unable to enjoy the happy moments that pop up, even though you know they are there.
You might not be feeling what you think you ‘should’ be feeling, and find it easier to simply not talk to people rather than sharing the fact that you are not loving parenthood.
Sometimes you might just feel angry about where life has taken you, with an overwhelming feeling of “what have I done?”
What is Post Natal Depression (PND)?
Post Natal Depression is a depressive mood disorder that starts within 3 months (sometimes up to 6 months) of giving birth and can last a few weeks or even up to a year or more. In some cases, usually without treatment, Post Natal Depression can become an ongoing depressive mood disorder.
How can I tell if I have it?
There is no one size fits all when it comes to Post Natal Depression, but research has suggested that there is a greater likelihood of occurrence for women who have experienced severe PMS pre-pregnancy, have difficult relationships and limited support, experience depression throughout the pregnancy or experience delivery complications and difficulties during the birth process.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Post Natal Depression are very similar to those experienced in a major depressive episode, and can include:
- Constant feelings of anxiety or depressed mood
- Continuous exhaustion and lack of energy
- Too much or too little sleep
- Appetite changes, including significant weight loss or weight gain
- Feelings of guilt / shame / anger / incompetence / hopelessness
- Loss of libido
- Obsessional thoughts or activities
- Inability to leave the house
- Intense and exaggerated fears about yourself, the baby or your partner
- Suicidal thoughts, plans or actions
How common is Post Natal Depression?
Post Natal Depression occurs in approximately 10% of women, compared to 70% who experience the ‘baby blues’.
It is important to note that 80% of all depression can be treated, but only 1 in 3 seriously depressed people ever seeks treatment. There is no need to suffer this pain in silence, as there is help available.
There is often such a focus on the physical health of both mum and baby after birth that sometimes psychological health can fall by the wayside.
It is important that your mental health is a priority and is maintained, after all, happy mum equals happy baby.
How can a psychologist help with Post Natal Depression?
When you come in, your Psychologist will gain an understanding from you about how you are feeling and thinking, and the circumstances of your life. You will often be asked to do some simple tests, and these will help to assess whether you do have Post Natal Depression, or any other issue, and give an idea as to the severity.
You will also be asked questions to uncover what might be the causes and stressors in your life, and your Psychologist will work with you to devise a treatment plan that will suit you and your lifestyle.
After your initial session, you will have some insight into what the problem is, a plan for therapy for the future, and some initial strategies to help get you started.
As with all forms of depression, exercise has also consistently been shown to be very effective in managing and overcoming PND. You don’t need to take out a gym membership or become a yoga guru (it can be as simple as a quick walk with bub in the fresh air!), but your psychologist will encourage you to explore some options to start (or continue) exercising as part of your treatment plan. Some ideas might include finding a friend to walk with (you’d be surprised how quickly 30 minutes can disappear!), signing up to a mum and bub fitness class or even a baby friendly yoga class, and if you are a fan of the gym, perhaps find a gym that offers a crèche service.
If you feel like you'd like help managing and taking back control of your Post Natal Depression, our psychologists across Australia specialise in this field.
We have psychologists that can help in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Canberra, Townsville, Sunshine Coast, Perth and Adelaide. Phone our friendly receptionists on 1300 830 552 and they can help you find the right Psychologist for you.
Male depression has been a very well kept secret until Terry Real published his book "I don't want to talk about it; Overcoming the Secret legacy of Male Depression" in 1977.
Since then a number of prominent Psychologists have written and educated our profession of Psychology about this condition, the most recent one being David Wexler.
In his book "Is he depressed or what?" David describes how male depression shows itself differently from normal depression.
Men who appear "successful" can often mask their depression with workaholism, substance abuse, withdrawing from their intimate relationships, and defensive and sometimes aggressive behaviour with others.
Depressed men are more likely to talk about physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and stomach upset rather than emotional symptoms.
If you are one of these men, you may also be aware of feeling stressed or tired, but not be aware of much else emotionally.
To simplify a generalisation, while women tend to think and process their emotions when they are depressed, men instead tend to act, so they turn to an activity that they enjoy or they distract themselves from their bad emotions.
While distraction can come in very handy at times, the pattern of avoiding uncomfortable emotional states often leads to avoidance, minimization and acting out. There are 4 ways a man will usually avoid feeling bad:
The 4 Characteristics of Male Depression
1. A discontent with yourself
2. Antagonism and blame towards others
3. Exaggerated behaviour
4. Avoidance and escape
These can also overlap with some of the normal depression symptoms of pessimism, despondency, sleep and appetite disturbances, but usually are features on their own as a way of fending off an underlying depression.
1. Discontent with yourself
One of the primary features of Male depression is a profound unhappiness with yourself.
If you have experienced a loss in your life, a demotion, a business failure, a relationship ending, a reduction in financial assets or any other kind of loss, it can be difficult not to take it personally, and feel shame and self-criticism.
It can also be a further blow to your ego for those around you to be diagnosing you with depression, which is the antithesis of being a strong male.
Although this occurrence may be temporary and/or based on circumstance, it can be difficult not to see as a personal failure.
2. Antagonism and blaming others
In these larger situations where you feel a failure, or even smaller occasions when you are feeling somewhat powerless, hurt or threatened, it can be all too easy to get tripped up with unknown vulnerable emotions that you are not really aware of, and find yourself responding by "puffing yourself up" to go on the offensive.
On so many occasions then, it can feel like your emotional survival depends on fending off any other experiences that make you feel worse about yourself or more hopeless of the future. The best defence it seems is a good offence.
So when you smell danger, as in situations that might make you feel bad about yourself, you proactively go on the attack.
And often the ones you attack are those closest to you, including your partner.
The movie "Good Will Hunting" is a great example of a man who goes on the offensive and attacks his girlfriend, when she has asked him to move to California with her, which brought up his insecurities and had him feeling like he had to defend himself by attacking her and telling her he didn't love her.
Another form of blaming and antagonistic behaviour can be expressed through suspiciousness and mistrust.
When you are feeling insecure and worried in a situation with a partner, it can be all too easy to blame her for being untrustworthy, even if she isn't, which over time can then become a self- fulfilling prophecy of mistrust and betrayal.
It is important to understand how this happens, as many men are capable are changing this pattern when you know how and why it is happening.
3. Exaggerated behaviour
When you are not aware of your underlying bad feelings about yourself and depression, your typical response may well be to prove you're a man with exaggerated hyper-masculine behaviours.
This can be by seeking out excessively stimulating experiences, or drinking to excess, or taking drugs, or going out looking for a fight (desperately looking for something to be angry about), or wanting lots of sex.
4. Avoidance and Escape
When you realise that you are deliberately engineering to keep yourself away from any situations in your life that you don't want to be in, you are using avoidance patterns in your life. Some go as far as systematically (or unconsciously) refusing to put themselves in situations where they may get hurt or suffer loss, like in relationships at all.
A little bit of this is normal for men, but too much of it can signify underlying depression which can seriously destroy their relationship.
This avoidance, although a drive for emotional protection for a man makes sense in some way, but it is very corrosive to both yourself and your relationship.
To help you assess if you are suffering from male depression take our Male Depression Quiz.
The overwhelming majority of depressed men who recognise and deal with their condition do so because their partners have recognised, encouraged and at times insisted on it.
As Terry Real has said "Depression is one of psychology's greatest success stories. 90% of those who seek treatment report substantial relief."
So please don't hesitate to call us.
For help with either Male depression or normal depression, please contact us at HartPsychologists. We have Psychologists to help you in all capital cities and more: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
You don't need to suffer on your own.
“All will never be right; everyone is not what they seem, and I’m not what others want me to be”
“It feels heavy, slow and hard to move and do ordinary tasks”
“I feel like a non-person. It’s all hopeless and life is meaningless”
All of us have experienced periods of sadness, disappointment, loss of energy or motivation, or “the blues” on occasions, but Major Depression is a more severe and long-lasting form of these.
It is when that down, rotten feeling invades every part of your life.
Experiences that would normally feel satisfying, feel like failure and frustration to you. Eventually, you may try to avoid having any experiences at all.
Communicating with people, even those you love may seem difficult or intrusive. You may shrink from wanting to talk with people all together.
And when you envisage the future (tomorrow or in 2 months or even 2 years time) you see no light at the end of the tunnel, and you have no sense that your gloom may ever lift.
What is Depression?
Depression is a depressed mood. We often have different moods like melancholy, elation, anger and peacefulness, which are very normal, but when a mood outlives its context, then it is considered a Mood disorder.
How can I tell if I have Depression?
The key symptoms of depression are:
- A feeling of depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
- A loss of interest and pleasure in almost all things you are doing
In addition to these two symptoms, you can experience some of these others:
- Significant weight gain or loss,(even though you are not dieting) and a loss of appetite
- Either difficulty in sleeping, or can’t stop sleeping
- Fatigue, sluggishness or no energy nearly every day
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or excessive guilt nearly every day
- Trouble being able to make decisions or think clearly
- A loss of sexual libido
- A feeling that life is not worth living, and thinking of suicide at times
Check our Depression Test to gain a general idea of whether you are suffering from Depression, and how serious it might be.
How common is Depression?
Over an average lifetime between 8% and 15% of the population experience serious depressive reactions. Two-thirds of these are women.
15% of people who are diagnosed with a depressive illness end their lives by suicide. This accounts for about half the suicides in Australia.
The real tragedy, though, is that 80% of all depression can be successfully treated. It is estimated that only 1 out of every 3 seriously depressed people ever seeks treatment. The pain caused by this situation is needless.
So, if you are feeling this might be what you are experiencing, we encourage you to come and be helped out of the hole you may be feeling you are in. Within a few months, you will be experiencing yourself in a whole different, more positive way.
How can a Psychologist help you with your Depression?
When you come in to see your Psychologist, he or she will gain an understanding from you about how you are feeling and thinking and the circumstances of your life. You will probably be asked to do some tests (that aren’t difficult) to assess if you have depression or any other issue, and will also be able to give you an idea of the severity.
He or she will also ask you questions to find out what might be the causes and stressors in your life and will be able to devise a treatment plan that will suit you and your lifestyle.
You will usually come home from the initial session with insight into what the problem is, a plan for therapy for the future and some initial strategies to get you started.
Exercise has been shown in multiple studies to be very helpful in overcoming depression, so you will be encouraged to find some avenues to start (or continue) exercising, as part of your treatment plan.
Please contact our friendly receptionists on 1300830552, or start looking at which of our Psychologists around Australia might be closest or best suited to you. We have experienced and caring psychologists in all capital cities and more: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
Your new life awaits you.
Although in the DSM5, Psychologists and Psychiatrists consider that Anxiety and Depression are 2 very different conditions, in actuality, we find that many people are suffering from a combination of both of these. And even when we notice that there is a combination, there are many variations on the types of combinations.
A US Psychologist, Margaret Wehrenberg, has identified 7 different combinations. If you feel that you are both anxious and depressed at times, perhaps you can see what type of combination might best describe you:
1. Low Energy
This combination is the closest to pure depression.
Here is a checklist of the main characteristics:
o Lethargy. You may continue to work but you complain about fatigue even when you exert yourself very little, and you spend many nonworking hours napping, lying around, watching TV, or not doing very much.
o Oversleeping. Sleep may be excessive and you don’t feel refreshed after it.
o Loss of interest. You tend not to have many hobbies.
o Not much involvement with others (though not necessarily isolation). You may keep up your required family activities or maintain minimal contact with your friends, but you very rarely initiate any contact with them.
o Rarely answer your phone or return messages.
o Overeating. You may be overweight, as eating is one of the few pleasures you have.
o Rumination. You often feel anxious and preoccupied with what will happen, what has gone wrong, what to do, and what cannot be changed.
2. Anxious & Hopeless
You feel sad, negative and worried, and hopeless to be able to change.
Here are the main characteristics:
o Persistent worry. You notice your anxiety more than your depression, because your worry about everyday life situations doesn’t seem to go away, no matter what you do.
o Hopeless attitude and negative expectations. You may hold some small hope that things could improve, but your overall view of life is pessimistic and you don’t expect your efforts to make a difference.
o Sense of duty or heightened responsibility. You meet your work responsibilities and perform with strong sense of duty, but you are rarely enthusiastic or energetic.
o Restrained anger. You tend not to express your anger openly and may be passive aggressive if you are afraid of losing a relationship if you were to speak up.
o External locus of control. You are moody and worried about choices you make, but you perceive that most decisions are made because of other people’s needs.
o Difficulty describing the quality of one’s overall emotional and physical state. You have trouble describing what emotions you feel, other than to know you’re feeling “bad”.
3. Panicky & Depressed
You feel panicky, but may not be aware that you are also depressed.
The following checklist indicates the main characteristics:
o Mild to moderate depression symptoms. You may not be aware that you are depressed.
o Passive personality. This may mask your depression as you are naturally less socially involved and talk less about emotions than the average person.
o Introversion. Even though you may be socially capable, you get exhausted by too much “other people time” and by work meetings.
o Panic attacks are initially triggered in you by unexpected situational stress. The first panic attack usually occurs in the wake of a sudden loss, a difficult situation at work, or an unexpected health problem.
o Panic following overreaction to stress. This leads you to bad decisions about life problems and hasty reactions while panicky.
o Less participation in previously enjoyed activities to avoid panic. You usually initially withdraw from life to avoid panic, so then you have fewer fun and joyful experiences, which leads to you feeling depressed.
o Difficulty accomplishing work or personal goals due to panic. You may have begun to avoid situations that might cause panic, which interferes with your work and personal life.
o Pessimism. You feel negative about how things will turn out, and about being able to overcome your anxiety and stress.
4. Worried & Exhausted
You try to keep up with daily living requirements but are increasingly fearful of failing to perform in the future. You feel stressed and overtaxed.
Here’s the checklist which indicates the main characteristics:
- “Stressed out” emotionally and physically.
- Persistent, ruminative worry about many things.
- Ability to manage real and immediate problems without worry. You actually can manage problems when you put your mind to it.
- Insufficient or nonrestorative sleep.
- Extensive efforts to solve problems: You are highly responsible in general, and will increase your work to solve problems, which often worsens your exhaustion.
- Rigid approaches to problem-solving. You can get stuck in thinking and deciding what actions need to be taken, often feeling like you are the only person who can do the job.
- Poor problem-solving for anxiety and depression, but otherwise a good trouble shooter.
- Blindness to the severity of the situation. You can just soldier on, and not perceive the problem to be as extreme as it actually is.
5. Quiet Avoider
You have been born with a shy and sensitive temperament. Although you might look like a LOW ENERGY person, it is social anxiety that dominates your life.
The following checklist indicates the main characteristics:
o Social anxiety or separation anxiety. These show up early in life and dominate your experiences.
O Low tolerance for sensations of anxiety. Feeling anxious feels very uncomfortable for me.
o Somber, passive temperament. Nothing gives you a “kick out of life” and this makes you feel depressed.
o Persistent depression, periodic anxiety. Your depression feels like it is unremitting, but your anxiety may come and go.
o Avoidance of opportunities to advance or fulfill potential. Your social anxiety deters you from taking the risks involved in to pursue opportunities to reach your full potential.
o Social reluctance in unfamiliar situations. You may have warm relationships with your family and close friends but withdraw from social interaction in unfamiliar situations.
o Dependence on loved ones. You may feel dependent on your parent, partner, or close friend for help in leaving your comfort zone.
o Introversion. Even if you are socially competent, you are introverted.
o Need for “ down time.” You usually need time to recharge after being in high-stimulation environments or engaged with people for long periods of time.
6. High Energy & Depressed
You have a high activity level and often feel anxious, but don’t feel your depression.
Here is the checklist:
o High anxiety when your activity level is interrupted. You attempt at all times to keep yourself busy, and in cases when you can’t, you will start to feel anxious.
o Lifestyle marked by high levels of activity and productivity. You cope with your stress by being always on the go and getting things done. It is very difficult to stop and relax.
o History of trauma. You may have suffered one or more past traumas.
o Tension-related physical problems. Your anxiety may manifest as headache, muscle pain, stomach or digestive problems, or insomnia.
o Perfectionism. You have a strong fear of making mistakes or not doing things exceedingly well, and this drives most of your anxiety.
o Rumination. There is a strong ruminative quality to your anxiety.
o Underlying negative emotional states. You often don’t really notice these while you are keeping yourself very busy.
o Underlying depression. This is masked by your energy and shows up mostly in pessimism about life.
7. High Anxiety
Your high anxiety is unremitting, significantly impairing the quality of your life. The longer it persists, the more likely it is to create a state of depression.
The following checklist shows you the main characteristics:
o Dread felt in the gut. You physically feel a persistent state of anxiety in your gut.
o “Serial” worrying. You actively looks for external “causes” of your anxiety and attempt to eliminate them, only to find that the anxiety returns.
o Worsening anxiety. Good days without anxiety become less frequent over time.
o Absence of pleasure and joy in life. This is not because you are not capable of feeling pleasure or joy, but rather because your high anxiety interferes with experiencing these feelings.
o Depression resulting from anxiety. Your anxiety eventually leads to depression.
o High-level functioning. You typically continue to perform work functions well.
o Tendency to be controlling and critical of others. You may try to allay your anxiety by pushing your ideas about how to behave or do work onto other people.
o Tendency to be excessively apologetic. In addition to (or instead of) being controlling and critical, you may be excessively apologetic as you frets over whether things are being done correctly.
o Feelings of “absence.” Because of the anxiety, you may be unable to feel engaged in the present.
o Increased anxiety during significant life transitions. It is harder for you to adjust to new life circumstances that the average person.
o Irritability, impatience, and strained relationships. You find yourself becoming easily irritable and impatient with things and other people.
If you find that any of these combinations feels like you, we at Hart Psychologists can help. We have Psychologists Australia wide, so one is near you. Please ring our friendly receptionists and we'll help you find the best Psychologist for you. Phone 1300830552.