How Postpartum Depression Can Lead to Addiction and Affect Your Relationship With Your Child

How Postpartum Depression Can Lead to Addiction and Affect Your Relationship With Your Child

Postpartum depression can appear in parents of any gender who struggle with depressive symptoms after the arrival of a newborn. Having a newborn child can be one of the best, most overwhelming moments of your life. After the birth of your child, you may experience a cacophony of oxymoronic emotions. This may include incredible joy and depression, contentment and anxiety, and a powerful sense of doom and hopefulness all at once. You may struggle to make sense of your feelings, but it’s okay for your feelings not to make sense.

For many people, these complicated feelings fade within a few days and can be referred to as “baby blues.” However, if these feelings persist for weeks or months, then you may be diagnosed with postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can cause you to struggle to create emotional connections with your child and others. In some cases, the overwhelming emotions of postpartum depression can lead to addiction.

Postpartum Depression Can Appear in Men and Women

While any parent can be diagnosed with postpartum depression, it is far more likely to appear in women. According to researchers, one in seven women develops postpartum depression (PPD). However, the statistics are skewed since many women are too ashamed to report or seek help for PPD. The stigma surrounding PPD is especially dangerous when it discourages women from seeking the treatment they need.

Women are more likely to suffer from PPD because of the toll childbirth not only takes on their emotions but their hormones and body as well. These physical and psychological changes can change the way you interact with the world. One risk factor for developing PPD after childbirth is pre-existing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Signs and Symptoms

To be diagnosed with PPD, women must experience five depressive symptoms for at least two weeks. In the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), PPD is characterized as being part of a major depressive disorder (MDD) that is onset by pregnancy or within four weeks of delivery. Depressive symptoms may include:

  • A depressed mood for most of the day
  • Anhedonia or loss of interest or pleasure in activities for most of the day
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Lethargicness, lack of energy, or fatigue
  • Worthlessness or guilt
  • Suicidal ideation or attempt
  • Recurring thoughts of death
  • Lack of focus or indecisiveness
  • Change in appetite that may cause drastic weight changes

Often these symptoms interfere with your ability to form a meaningful connection with your newborn and affect how you function in the world. When untreated, this can have a profound effect on your child’s ability to function in his or her future. In some cases, PPD results in poor care of the infant, such as negative parenting practices and difficulty breastfeeding.

Postpartum Depression in Men

There is a lack of studies on how PPD affects fathers. Unlike mothers, there are no specific criteria for a PPD diagnosis in men. However, men who have a history of mental health disorders are at a higher risk for developing PPD. Other risks include marital problems, poverty, maternal depression, and unintended pregnancy. Usually, PPD symptoms present in men about three to six months following childbirth, but they can develop over a year afterward. Typically, symptoms of irritability, indecisiveness, and a restricted range of emotions are observed to be more prevalent in men than women.

Postpartum Depression Can Lead to Addiction

Some new parents who become overwhelmed by their emotions turn to substance use, eventually developing substance use disorder (SUD). SUD is highly comorbid with PPD because some parents use substances as an unhealthy coping mechanism to manage PPD symptoms. According to one national survey, 14.9% of postpartum women reported binge drinking, and 8.5% reported the use of illicit or illegal drugs.

Substance use can exasperate PPD symptoms. For instance, it can make it even more difficult for a parent to create a connection with their child. Growing up in an environment of heavy substance use can also put the child at a higher risk of substance use in the future.

More research must be conducted to better understand the relationship between PPD and SUD. However, women with PPD are at a higher risk for developing SUD than those who do not have PPD. If you are struggling with PPD and SUD, you are not alone, and many recovery facilities like Restoration Recovery Centers provide treatment options that can help you manage both your PPD and SUD symptoms.

People With Postpartum Depression Can Seek Treatment

A combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy can be used to treat a dual diagnosis of PPD and SUD. Many recovery facilities like Restoration Recovery Centers offer both. Some psychotherapy techniques used to treat PPD include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and trauma therapy. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or other antidepressant medications can be used to help manage some PPD symptoms. PPD and SUD must be treated simultaneously because they both affect one another.

PPD is common among new, overwhelmed parents. If left untreated, PPD can lead to substance use and SUD. Restoration Recovery Centers has experience treating PPD and other dual diagnoses alongside SUD. We understand that parenthood is a large part of the complex human you are and are eager to listen to how it affects your SUD symptoms. Our mental health professionals will work closely with you to create a treatment plan that caters to your recovery goals and needs. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, call (888) 290-0925 to learn how Restoration Recovery Centers can help you restore your life’s purpose and heal from addiction.

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