Postpartum Depression

Despite being one of the three main forms of depression, postpartum depression is underestimated leaving many women unprepared and uneducated for something that affects the majority of women. According to Postpartum Progress, Postpartum depression is so prevalent that the CDC reported that 950,000 women suffered from it. The real catch with this statistic is that it is self-reported. That excludes all the women who were ashamed, confused, or unaware of what they were going through had a name. When comparing this issue to other major diseases for women in America each year approximately 800,000 women will get diabetes, about 300,000 women will suffer a stroke, and about 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. With such a high number of those who will be touched by postpartum depression there is a need to raise awareness and education.

The first step is to understand what is postpartum depression. According to Mayo Clinic, postpartum depression is a form of depression that may occur after childbirth. Just like other forms of depression postpartum depression is different than a momentary spell of feeling down. Postpartum depression can occur anywhere between the first few days after birth to sixth months after birth. If it does occur it can last anywhere between a few weeks to a few months.

At this point you may be wondering why postpartum depression is even a thing, after all childbirth is a normal human occurrence. Well the answer can be found when looking at the impact it has physically and emotionally. Physically after one gives birth there is a large change in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Where a mother was producing hormones for two there is suddenly one body and it takes time physically for the mother’s body to switch processes. Emotionally becoming a parent is taxing. It can be a daunting task to suddenly have another human being rely on you for its livelihood. Now while there is no single cause of postpartum depression, either of these issues combined with various external factors can be the causes.

Now in order to identify postpartum depression or help someone through it you have to be able to spot it. According to Psych Central some symptoms of postpartum depression can look like this:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Fear that your not a good mother
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Problems with appetite and/or sleep
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Reduced interest
  • Thought of death or suicide

It is important to remember that while this gives a list of common symptoms of postpartum depression symptoms these are not the finite list. It is possible for you or a loved one to experience symptoms that are not on the list

Postpartum depression is a hard thing for someone to experience and deserves to be treated like any other illness. If you or someone you know seems like you may have postpartum depression do not wait for it to pass. Please tell someone and seek help. Just like the other forms of depression it can be treated with medication or psychotherapy.

Lastly it is important to remember that postpartum depression isn’t a sign of character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it can be a complication of giving birth. If you find yourself experiencing any of these signs get help as soon as possible in order to get back on your feet and love your newborn.

~Be mindful of the mind

 

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The Winter Blues

Have you ever gotten sad or down on a cold winter day? Believe it or not this is actually a common experience. This As discussed in the previous blog post, depression is a large mental health issue. The Winter Blues or more commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a branch of the mental illness depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is directly related to changes in seasons. According to Mayo Clinic, “SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.” SAD typically begins in late fall and carries into the winter months, and in more rare cases it occurs in the spring or early summer. While the time of year plays a big role in SAD so does geographic location. SAD normally affects people in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

During these times of experiencing SAD most people experience depression like symptoms and sadness. These symptoms include depression, anxiety, mood changes, low energy, and losing interest in activities and people. As it says in its name SAD is a seasonal depression and should be treated as such. Any depressions symptoms may occur while experiencing SAD.

Now while many of us would love to be able to go to the tropics during the winter months that’s not always possible. So the questions is how can you fight SAD? Unlike other forms of depression SAD is easier counter and luckily you can do a lot of it yourself. The first and most important is get as much natural light as possible. According to Psychology Today people with a higher exposure to natural light report a higher quality of life. Other than natural light you can buy artificial lights that emits light on the broad spectrum of light that is similar to natural light. If light exposure does not do the trick there are also the standard depression treatments that include medication and psychotherapist.

So if you find yourself getting blue this winter tell someone and see a doctor to see if you are experiencing SAD. Also remember to keep moving and get as much natural light as possible. The sun is always shining you just have to find it.

~Be mindful of the mind

 

“I am good, just a little blue today.”

“I am Good, just a little blue today” is a phrase we have all probably heard from other or said ourselves. We all feel blue from time to time. It is a perfectly normal emotion and there is no need for shame. The issue is when it becomes a constant in everyday life. While this may seem cut and dry, the difference between a bout of sadness and clinical depression is a common point of confusion. Expressions of sadness are often followed by “I promise I will be better tomorrow.” What happens if tomorrow comes and you are still feeling down?

Clarity begins by considering the definition of depression. Mayo Clinic describes it as such: “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.” The key part of this definition is “persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” Those not prone to depression may struggle to understand how one can feel down for such a long period of time, but it is actually quiet normal. In fact, 6.9% of Americans live with some form of major clinical depression. With more than 3 million cases a year, clinical depression is no trivial matter.

With such a large number of people affected by a variety of forms of depression, the first question is “why do people get depression?” The honest answer is there is no one cause. Depression can be caused by inherited traits from family members or a combination of, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. The breadth of causes makes it hard to proactively diagnose or prevent depression.

The societal stigma associated with depression also contributes to the difficulty of diagnosis. Many people are ashamed of feeling depression and therefore hide it from friends and family. Mental health professionals at the Mayo Clinic have compiled a list of symptoms to help others see through the attempts to cloak depression:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness.
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports.
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort.
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people.
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness.
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility.
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things.
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide.

Keep in mind while these are general symptoms and not everyone will exhibit one or more as described. Many find it hard to express how they feel while suffering from depression. Vincent van Gogh once described depression through this metaphor: “One feels as if one were lying bound hand and foot at the bottom of a deep dark well, utterly helpless” (Brain Picks).

When dealing with someone who may have depression, it is important not compare their situation to times you have been sad. Chances are you may have experienced similar things on paper, but in reality the way someone feels and internalizes different experiences are uniquely their own. The best choice is to let them talk about their experience and ask questions to help them process their emotions.

Now that we have a good understanding of depression, it is time to consider courses of treatment:

  • Depression can be treated through medicine and psychotherapy and there is a large market of antidepressants available to physicians to prescribe. It is always important to remember that all medicines do not work for everyone and that there is always a potential for side affects.
  • Depression can be treated with psychotherapy. A psychotherapist can help patients address their feelings through open discussion and by developing personal strategies to combat depression.
  • Depression can be treated through Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). This treatment has greatly improved over years and is nothing like the immediate images that are brought to mind. The patient is administered anesthesia and is asleep through the minor electrical pulses. Patients do not have memory of the treatment, and it has proven effective in many cases.

Depression is a complicated mental condition that carries some unfortunate stigmas. Regardless, there is no need to let depression rob you of a happy life because there are effective courses of treatment. If you even believe you may be experiencing depression, seek the support from friends and family to face the issue head on. If you know a someone that you may suspect is experiencing depression, ask them about it and let them know you care. Starting the dialogue is the first, critical step.

One last note. Depression in the most extreme cases can lead to thoughts of suicide. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255. The hotline is is open 24/7 or you can visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.