Perinatal anxiety disorder is a strange name for something more common than the problem every new mom knows about: postpartum depression.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you’ll recognize some of these symptoms right away. Uncontrollable racing thoughts, horribly distressing thoughts -- ones that you know are illogical, but you have them anyway. Images flash through your mind like a slideshow on fast-forward, some of them terrible ideas about what could happen to your baby. Thinking your baby will die. Your partner doesn’t even know what to do, how to help. And of course, you can’t sleep.
Neither can thousands of other women.
So why is it the hidden disorder if so many women have this problem?
In comparison to PPD, perinatal anxiety disorder has received almost no attention by researchers -- until now. A study is being done at UNC that is shedding new light on the disorder and helping anxiety-ridden moms get off that whirling carousel of panic.
All new parents experience anxiety; most of it is completely normal. But doctors start to worry when the anxiety becomes all-consuming.
Because you’re growing a baby, you can’t just rely on Xanax to get you through your pregnancy. One treatment being looked at is CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, which works on changing your behaviors and thinking.
Therapists I’ve spoken to really emphasize self-guided meditation, learning to stay in the moment (as opposed to in your head), and relaxation techniques that you can use the moment anxiety starts to build (soft-belly breathing is my favorite). All of these teach you how to stop the dangerous pattern of anxious thinking midstream, and even before it starts. Fair warning: you might also have to do some hokey stuff (see David Burns’ The New Mood Therapy for example), but that hokey stuff works.
If you are feeling anxious, and you can tell it’s not really an appropriate level, get your butt to a doctor. Look into getting a doula or other form of support -- it can make a huge difference in addition to therapy.
If you decide to see a therapist, make sure you find someone who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy. A lot of therapists know a little about CBT, but you really want someone who can sit down and say, “When you think X, you need to do Y.”
And while you’re waiting to see the doctor, grab a bar of super dark chocolate -- after all, those stress-relieving properties are medically necessary!
Do you ever have these crazy thoughts?
Image via Diluvi/Flickr