Can Post-Partum Depression Lead to Addiction?
When a new mom experiences more than the baby blues, she may sometimes turn to substances as a way to cope with feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
Understanding Post-Partum Depression
Some people may expect a new baby brings only feelings of joy and happiness; however in reality, the increased responsibility associated with a new child brings on many emotions. As many as one in seven women experience a more severe mood disorder, known as post-partum depression (PPD), after giving a birth according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
While many women go through the baby blues after birth, a period of feeling stressed, sad, anxious, lonely, weepy or sad, feelings of anxiety or depression that won’t go away are a sign that help is needed. Post-partum depression is more severe, lasts for a longer period and may not go away on its own. PPD isn’t just a disease that affects women. Men may be susceptible to the disease particularly men who have a prior history of anxiety or depression according to research in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
The APA notes it’s important to get treatment for PPD because it seriously affects a person’s ability to take care of a baby. PPD symptoms may appear any time during the first year of taking care of a baby such as right after the baby’s birth or three months after the birth. Symptoms may include an ongoing fear of not being a good parent or being left alone with the baby or disinterest in the baby. These all indicate a need for treatment. If a caregiver ever has thoughts of hurting herself/himself or the baby, it’s important to seek help immediately. The APA outlines the following symptoms of PPD, which are similar to other types of depression including the following:
- Lost pleasure in activities that once brought joy including sex
- Appetite changes such as eating more or less
- Feeling anxious most of the time including panic attacks
- Racing thoughts including scary thoughts
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Strong mood swings including irritability, anger or agitation
- Long periods of sadness including uncontrollable crying
- Sleep problems such as not sleeping enough or sleeping too much
- Attention problems, difficult concentrating and remembering details
Researchers have mixed opinions about the causes of PPD—it could be related to genetic factors, cultural influences or other life circumstances. In general, it’s likely that several factors come together to cause symptoms. Physical factors could include changes in a woman’s hormones after giving birth. A person with a past history of anxiety or depression or a family history of the disease also is at increased risk. Furthermore, people with challenging circumstances, such as caring for a baby with special needs or a baby who cries for long periods, is hard to comfort or has unpredictable eating or sleeping patterns, may be more likely to develop PPD
Post–Partum Depression and Addiction
Undiagnosed post-partum depression is associated with an increased risk of addiction. Many people are reluctant to admit depression or anxiety symptoms especially after giving birth because of worries they should feel happier after having a new baby.
People who are depressed and/or anxious are two to three times more likely to develop an addiction according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Getting help for these mood disorders also helps with addiction treatment. When a person has two or more mental health problems, known as co-occurring disorders, it’s important that treatment addresses both addiction and depression at the same time in order to achieve the best outcomes.
A widely recognized treatment for PPD and addiction is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of therapy helps a person understand the reasons behind anxious or depressing thoughts and teaches a person ways to change undesirable thoughts and behaviors. People can see results from this type of therapy within 12 to 16 weeks according to the ADAA.
Finding treatment as early as possible keeps symptoms from getting worse. Some people may need medication such as anti-depressants in addition to individual and group therapy. Talk therapy is a highly effective treatment for mental health disorders and gives people additional coping skills that improve quality of life going forward.
Need Help Finding Treatment for Post-Partum Depression and Addiction?
A person with two mental health problems, such as post-partum depression and addiction, needs specialized treatment to get the best outcomes. Addiction is a serious, chronic disease, but it responds well to many treatments. As scientists learn more about addiction, they understand how similar it is to other chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. A person struggling with addiction and PPD needs physical and psychological interventions to make a healthy recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with PPD and addiction, please call our toll-free helpline. Our admissions coordinators help people find the right treatment options for their unique needs. Call our toll-free number 24 hours a day, seven days a week for advice. Don’t struggle alone. Call us today.