Can Postpartum Depression Lead to Addiction?

Can Postpartum Depression Lead to Addiction?

Because of the emotional distress that often accompanies postpartum depression, many women abuse drugs to feel better

Giving birth to a child is a sacred, life-changing event. The mystery and wonder of bringing life into the world is cause for celebration, and family and friends often stop by to offer their congratulations and delight at this momentous occasion. The excitement, combined with the anticipation, lasts for few days or even weeks, but feeling elated does not last forever. As the permanence and weight of responsibility becomes real, some women experience postpartum depression, also known as PPD.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is different than the mommy blues, a condition that causes a short period of melancholy or depression within a few days after giving birth.

Common symptoms of the mommy blues include the following problems:

  • Mood swings
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Crying

This kind of depression usually goes away within a few hours or days, but postpartum depression lasts much longer. It often starts within the first month or so after childbirth, but it can develop anytime within the first year and last up to several months. PPD is no different than other episodes of depression, except for its timing. However, the signs of depression in new mothers are often missed, because mood fluctuations, energy levels, changing interests and sleep patterns are all part of being a new mom. Some moms will even deny PPD, because they feel guilt and shame for not being happier with a new baby.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

There is no one reason why women develop postpartum depression. However, according to Web MD, factors for this condition occur in the following three categories:

  • Physical changes. After childbirth, the body’s hormones (estrogen and progesterone, specifically) drop significantly. Other hormones produced by the thyroid gland can plummet as well. This change can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and depressed. Furthermore, the physical changes you undergo after birth can contribute to mood changes.
  • Emotional changes. Being a new mom (whether the first time, second or third time) is an emotional experience. You can feel scared, anxious and sad at the huge change in your life, and these factors can contribute to postpartum depression.
  • Lifestyle changes. When you add a new child to the family, the entire family system changes. You must contend with older siblings, changes in your work schedule, new financial expenses and time away from friends. These changes can be overwhelming.

Other factors may play a role in postpartum depression. According to the Office of Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Overwhelmed with a new baby
  • Doubts about your ability to be a good mother
  • Stress from changes home routines
  • An unrealistic need to be a perfect mom
  • Loss of who you were before having the baby
  • Feeling less attractive
  • A lack of free time

Many factors that create an increased risk of postpartum depression are similar to depression from major life events. According to the group Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness, these factors include the following issues:

  • Experiencing a difficult life situation
  • History of trauma prior to pregnancy
  • History of depression or other mood disorders before pregnancy
  • History of addiction or substance abuse prior to pregnancy
  • History of some type of abuse (sexual, verbal or physical)

If these factors seem relevant to you, then seek help as soon as possible.

Signs of Postpartum Depression

Every woman is different, but there are some common signs and symptoms of PPD. Again, these symptoms must be present for several weeks before the depression can be diagnosed chemically, but the Center for Addiction and Mental Health reports the following symptoms of postpartum depression:

  • Loss of appetite/eating too much
  • Inability to sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer. If you are experiencing these symptoms, then talk to your physician. She can prescribe medication to level out your emotions; antidepressants, combined with psychotherapy, can be extremely effective at treating postpartum depression.

Postpartum Depression and Addiction

Unfortunately, many women abuse drugs or alcohol to manage their PPD. They mistakenly think that substance abuse is a quick, easy way to deal with depression, but, if they keep taking these substances, then they will become dependent upon them and risk addiction. Many people do not recognize that using substances only creates more difficulty and even greater emotional consequences, including feeling embarrassed or ashamed about becoming addicted to drugs. Women who use drugs to deal with PPD could even lose custody of their children if addiction worsens and affects the wellbeing of their children.

Fortunately, many treatment centers specialize in treating both addiction and postpartum depression. With the help of professionals who understand the nature of depression and the challenges of being a new mom, you can overcome your addiction as you become the parent that you want to be.

Get Help for Your Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with postpartum depression and an addiction at the same time, we can help. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline anytime to talk with one of our admissions coordinators about the nature of addiction. Together, you can determine the best treatment options for you and your situation. Our staff can also help you find a treatment center that specializes in treating postpartum depression and addiction. Getting help can mean a positive future for both you and your child, so call us now.

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