by Carolyn King, MD
Since April is National Autism Awareness Month, it provides a great opportunity to offer some information about autism.
What autism is not.
It is sometimes easier to say what autism is not. Autism is not mental retardation. It is not a serial killer. It is not contagious. Autism is not that different from our own idiosyncrasies or quirks.
What autism is.
The autism spectrum of disorders is a group of developmental disabilities that can affect social interaction, communication skills, and behaviors. Symptoms may range from very mild to severe.
Mild symptoms can be displayed in someone who is considered quirky, geeky, and often bullied. For example, the person doesn’t pick up on jokes or doesn’t make friends easily. People with mild symptoms can become obsessive, or very focused on one thing or area such as dinosaurs, astrology, computers or electricity. These people have a normal to high intelligence quotient (IQ).
People with severe symptoms may have an inability to communicate in words and be very focused on light switches or blocks. They often require “sameness,” or routine. These people can easily be over-stimulated with sounds, smells, lights, people or change. These people usually have low IQs.
Why become aware?
Awareness can lead to better options for treatment. Think of how awareness of breast and prostate cancer has created improved health outcomes when faced with the diagnosis of cancer. The illness becomes less scary.
Awareness of a problem validates that a problem exists. It gets people looking for ways to solve the problem and helps decrease negative events, such as when people with autism are bullied and ostracized. People who are bullied and ostracized sometimes retaliate with unhealthy outcomes. Awareness of autism allows people more opportunities to collaborate towards healthy outcomes.
How to begin treatment
Intervention can involve behavioral treatments, medicines or both. A diagnosis is based on observed behavior. Often a comprehensive evaluation will include information from more than one professional discipline, and rule out problems of vision and hearing acuity as well as possible contributing medical conditions.
Research indicates that children who start treatment at an early age achieve better outcomes. To determine if your child might need an evaluation, contact one or more of these resources: your child’s physician; your school district; or the Michigan Early On Program.
What can you do?
Increase awareness by searching and researching autism websites and materials, and share the results on your social media sites. Donate to autism organizations and research.
We built ramps for people in wheelchairs; it’s time to build bridges and social applications for people with autism. We can do better.
Carolyn King, MD, is a psychiatrist working with adults, adolescents and children in both outpatient and inpatient settings at Pine Rest. For more information go to www.pinerest.org or call 1-866-852-4001.
by Heidi Vermeer-Quist, PsyD
When I was growing up, every summer my Grandma and Grandpa Vermeer took my cousins and I fishing up in Canada. Looking back, it was quite a treat, though I often did not fully appreciate it at the time. We would get up early every morning, usually before 6 a.m., which was “sleeping in” for my grandparents. Sleepy eyed and chilled, we’d shuffle to the table for a hot fisherman’s breakfast. During breakfast, we’d talk about the day, which lake we’d go to, and what Grandma would pack for our lunch. Then we’d get out onto the water as quickly as possible. Within two to five minutes of putting minnows on our hooks and letting our lines down, one of us would get a “hit”. Then the fishing frenzy would begin. We caught beautiful (well, if fish can be beautiful), big fish. Walleye and Northern Pike mostly.
Honestly, while on these over-stocked lakes, we would catch our fishing limit every day…sometimes we’d catch it within the first hour! Sickening, eh? (I always have to say “eh?” when I’m talking ‘bout Canada ). Once we caught our limit, we’d start weeding through our stringers full of fish and decide which ones we wanted to keep and which ones we wanted to release and replace. Finally, after about two whole hours of fishing we’d be just “exhausted” (remember we were kids), so we’d head back to shore for our gourmet lunch consisting of either fresh cooked fish or premade PB&J.
Catch – Release – Replace. This fishing experience serves as a great analogy for mental health. Did you know that we go fishing all the time? We cast out our attention like a fishing line, baited and hooked, trying to connect with the next great “catch”. And typically our mental ponds are stocked full. We catch something immediately. What we reel in may or may not be a “great keeper”. We are the ones judging its value. We may reel in something quite disappointing, and it is up to us to hold onto it or to let it go. Unfortunately, sometimes we get in the habit of catching and holding onto unhelpful thoughts, unhelpful expectations (for others, outcomes, or holding onto old memories – “coulda”, “woulda”, “shoulda’s”) and not releasing them. It is vitally important for us to release and replace those thoughts that are toxic to our mental health.
Try to apply the “catch – release – replace” analogy to your mental health management. What are you catching in your mental pond? Just be aware what you are “catching”. What is “hooking” your mind or thought patterns? We are all fishing…all the time. Just pay attention to your thoughts.
Now ask yourself, “do I want to keep these thoughts or let them go”? Are my habitual thoughts keepers? Or are they throwbacks? Hint: the throwbacks would definitely include the 3 O’s – others, outcomes and old stuff. In all honesty, whenever I do the above exercise many of my thoughts are throwbacks – something to do with old stuff, something about someone else, or some worry I have about the future. HOWEVER, when I catch it I realize that I can free myself by simply releasing it to God’s care and replacing it with something better. Perhaps putting my mind on something tangible in the present; focusing on gifts from God given to me in every moment; adopting an attitude of acceptance, thanksgiving, and trust. Take some time to reflect on and use this “catch – release – replace” mental health methodology. May God guide and bless your fishing expeditions.
PRAYER: “The way I see things determines how I think about them. The way I think about things determines the way I feel about them. The way I feel determines how I will act, react and choose. That will determine the results I will have to live and with. I choose to side with Your (God’s) ways in all things.” – A Daily Affirmation from Christ Life Ministries.
Heidi Vermeer-Quist, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist working at the Pine Rest Des Moines Clinic since 2002. She provides psychotherapy to people struggling with depression, anxiety, relational conflicts, unresolved grief and adjustment, and personality disorders.
I grew up in the lovely little town of Pella, Iowa. People who grow up in Pella are expected to be well-put-together, responsible, hardworking, God-fearing and independent. As a good Dutch Reformed girl, I figured I had “boundaries” down pat. I grew up in a church and community with lots of clear rules. I never got in trouble. People liked me (at the least most seemed to like me). And I genuinely loved God and desired to follow His commands. So, imagine my shock and dismay, when three years into my doctoral degree, my psychologist told me that I had problems with healthy boundaries. It took me a good year or so to even consider that she might be right. She was. That same year, a chaplain who I was working with on my inpatient rotation, told me I was a “control freak”. Again, I experienced shock and dismay, not to mention major offense. She was way off…until I realized she was way on.
I carried tons of extra stuff on my shoulders that I simply could not control. I felt very responsible for keeping other people happy, succeeding in everything I did, knowing the right answers and not making mistakes. I worried constantly, planned obsessively, and struggled with a good deal of shame and “not-good-enoughness”. Developing a healthy concept of Boundaries was critical to my own well-being, and I find it to be a missing piece for almost every client who walks through the door.
From a Christian perspective, we are created in the image of God but born in sin (thinking we can actually do God’s job better than He can). As a result, we all often have problems realizing our own limits. Here is a simple overview healthy boundaries:
Basics of Healthy Boundaries
(some concepts taken from Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend)
o Attitudes or thoughts (directing or redirecting them)
o Behaviors (choosing and acting with them)
Watch Out for the “O” Zone and Garden Your Life with God.
We naturally let the three O’s into our minds and dupe ourselves into believing that we can control them. Focusing on the “O’s” of others, outcomes and old stuff, and trying to change or control them is a losing battle. Instead, catch yourself when you are in the “O” zone, commit your “O’s” to prayer, and focus on managing your own Feelings, Attitudes, and Behaviors one moment at a time. Ask God, your Master Gardener, to guide you and provide you with His wisdom and grace. Ask supportive others to help you as you adjust your boundaries and garden your life. As we manage our own FAB-ulous treasures, we are energized to connect well with others. We are able to live and give freely.
by Susan Yoder, NP, RN
“He never attempted to sleep on his left side, even in those dismal hours of the night when the insomniac longs for a third side after trying the two he has.” - Vladimir Nabokov
We all have a bad night every once in a while, but It is estimated that 25% of us suffer from more persistent insomnia. That’s 82.5 million people in the US. No wonder drug companies are making millions selling over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications. Insomnia includes problems falling asleep, problems staying asleep, or problems waking up too early in the morning. We have no idea how many people never report their sleep problems to their doctor because they think it is too trivial, that there’s nothing anyone can do, or they treat it on their own with over-the-counter sleep aids or alcohol. (More on that later.)
Insomnia is a serious health issue. It can impair your memory. It increases the likelihood that you could develop heart problems (high blood pressure, heart attack, congestive heart failure), have a stroke, develop diabetes, be obese, be in a car accident, or die sooner. One study found that reduced sleep time increased mortality more than smoking, high blood pressure, and heart disease. People with sleep deprivation are more impaired than people who drive when intoxicated. But just what constitutes sleep deprivation?
How much sleep is enough? We all learned that we’re supposed to get eight hours of sleep a night, but the reality is we are all different. Each individual has a unique sleep requirement which depends on genetic and physiological factors. Most adults can function on six to eight hours of sleep per night with minimal negative effects, and some on as little as five hours. It is interesting to note that people can have negative effects on their health with too much sleep – anything over nine hours a night.
In order to determine how much sleep you need, you have to be able to sleep as long as you would like until you wake up naturally, feeling refreshed and awake. Not too many of us have the luxury of doing that, especially not for a long enough period to make up for any pre-existing sleep deficit and then determine what our consistent sleep time is. In general, if you do not have excessive daytime sleepiness, do not have mood problems (most often depression, irritability) nor do you have problems with memory, concentration or productivity, then you are probably getting enough sleep. If you have any of the above problems, you should talk to your doctor. They may be caused by insomnia, but you need to eliminate a number of other possible causes which might also be causing the insomnia.
So, you’ve figured out that you are not getting enough sleep. You lay in bed at night waiting for hours to fall asleep, but you can’t. You wake up in the morning feeling like you’ve been awake all night. The three most important things to do are:
Regardless of what is actually causing your insomnia, making these three changes will help improve your sleep. Limit caffeine to 16 ounces per day. The last intake of caffeine should be at least six hours prior to bedtime. Caffeine level peaks in your body five hours after you drink it. If you have a Mountain Dew at 7:00 p.m., it will max out at midnight and only then start to decrease its effect.
Limit alcohol to no more than one or two servings and none within two hours of bedtime. Alcohol produces fragmented sleep, shallower sleep, and results in more nighttime awakenings. Alcohol can also make sleep apnea worse. A glass of wine at dinner does not usually interfere with sleep. NEVER mix alcohol with sleeping pills. This is a deadly combination.
Becoming a nonsmoker is important because nicotine is a stimulant. It raises your blood pressure, heart rate, and brain wave activity. Smokers wake up frequently during the night due to nicotine withdrawal. (How often do you go for eight hours during the day without smoking even one cigarette? Most people experience nicotine withdrawal after two hours without a cigarette.)
So you’ve limited your caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes but you still aren’t sleeping. Insomnia: Part Two will describe proven strategies to improve sleep.
Susan Yoder, NP, RN is a Certified Nurse Practitioner. Susan works in the Campus Clinic and has extensive experience working with individuals who are coping with depression, anxiety, mood swings, the effects of abuse and trauma, as well as those who hear voices and have psychotic symptoms.
This column first appeared in the February 24, 2013 edition of the Grand Rapids Press
By Bruce Springer, MD
What is addiction?
Most health care professionals would agree that addiction is a disease.
Like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, and leukemia, it shares many disease-defining characteristics and like these, if left untreated, is often fatal. Unfortunately, addiction, whether to drugs, alcohol, or even gambling, is a relapsing disease that is all too common.
There are more deaths, illness, and disabilities from substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. Today, one in four deaths is attributable to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use.
Addiction finds its home in some of the deepest parts of the human brain and yet reaches outward to affect all of health, family life, law and even history.
Terms used to describe and differentiate people’s relationship to potentially addictive substances are important to understand. Frequently, these terms are used interchangeably and this adds confusion to an already confounding topic.
Most people using opiates for severe pain relief may develop tolerance and require higher doses for continued pain relief. Some of these same patients may become dependent and experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if the opiates were stopped abruptly. The majority of these patients, however, will not develop the disease of addiction.
A college freshman may abuse alcohol and drink to intoxication frequently throughout his early college experience, but after failing an important course or frequent morning “hangovers,” will decide that moderation and responsibility are important to his health and success. His best friend, however, may lose control over alcohol consumption and develop addiction to alcohol (alcoholism), drinking despite dire consequences.
Addiction is a disease located in the brain
Many view alcoholism and addiction as a moral weakness or disease of the will. We are now learning addiction begins when significant changes take place deep within the human brain.
The brain is made up of billions of individual nerve cells that must be able to communicate with each other. They do this with tiny appendages called axons. These cells send chemical messages back and forth with neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinepherine. Many medications and all substances to which human beings become addicted affect the quantities of these chemicals and how they interact with nerve cells.
Within the substance of the brain lie clusters of nerve cells which allow us to feel joy, happiness, and satisfaction. These are known as “pleasure centers” and are connected in a tract of nerve tissue running near the bottom of the brain between the right and left hemispheres.
It is thought that people susceptible to addiction may experience changes in the interaction of these neurotransmitters and their receptors. For persons having a predisposition to addiction, the introduction of a substance bringing a pleasurable feeling may begin to disrupt the receptor / neurotransmitter function of the nerve cells. What once was a source of pleasure becomes a desperate need for the substance bringing pleasure.
The disease of addiction may bring with it distinct molecular and biochemical changes in the human brain. Addiction takes a toll on the addict. Any drug of choice eventually begins to destroy the physical and psychological health of its victim.
It is not difficult to see that if we are not ourselves victims of addiction, we may well care about someone who is. Because it is felt by many to be our number one health problem, it is important to become more familiar with addiction as a disease and not a moral weakness.
People with addiction are in great pain and their suffering can be lessened and even eliminated through treatment. We must be willing to commit ourselves to offering and supporting that treatment.
Bruce C. Springer, MD, specializes in treatment of addictions and is a physician in Pine Rest's Addictions Services. He has more than 30 years of experience. Pine Rest provides a continuum of addiction services, for more information visit our Addiction Services page or call 1-866-852-4001.
I did an exercise with a depression support group a few years ago. I encouraged participants to turn to one another and take turns asking the question, “Who are you?” One of the ladies graciously agreed to demonstrate the “Who are you?” dialogue with me. Instead of having her ask me first (which I should have done, so as not to put her on the spot), I asked her first, “Who are you?” She responded immediately with a laugh and the statement, “I am fat!” She then continued a litany of other things about herself that were wrong. I don’t remember any of them because I wanted to stop and redirect her ASAP. I encouraged her to focus on more simple, factual (less negative and judgmental) self-statements.
Now, some of you may be wondering, “Well, was she fat?” She was overweight but not morbidly obese. Still, isn’t it sad that her first self-statement was “I am fat!”? What does that tell you about how she sees herself?
Is this woman alone in her automatic perceptions of herself? By no means! I frequently have automatic thoughts that are self demeaning. I’m pretty sure you have those types of automatic thoughts too. Certainly we all seem to struggle with “I’m not good enough” or “not acceptable” thoughts.
Take note right now, however, that those descriptions are simply not true! They are more likely statements of a negative self-concept or an expression of negative feelings. If I confuse “Who I am” with “How I am feeling”, then the “worlds” I create with my words will be very dramatic, unstable and probably dark. Who I am is NOT a negative perception or judgment. Who I am and who you are is amazing and well designed. We are more unique than anything else in all of God’s creation. As far as I can tell, we are the highest functioning beings on the planet…and likely in the universe!
Who am I? I am a human being. I am created by God and in God’s own image. I am also a person created to be utterly dependent on God for all things. He made me female. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, co-worker, psychologist, and musician. I love pumpkin spice lattes (with half the syrup) along with most hot drinks; critters like dogs and horses; crisp fall days; wearing blue jeans, colorful socks, comfy shoes and cozy shirts; going to hang out in a coffee shop with nearly anybody; making music; laughing at and with my husband; marveling at the growth all around me (especially with my kids) but also within me. When I turn my mind to all these things, I’m compelled to say, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” and I’m much more okay with myself.
How about you? Who are you? Remember, your life is a gift to you. You are not to judge it, but to embrace it, unwrap it, and value it. Take time this day to write out who you are. Perhaps do the “Who are You?” exercise with a friend or family member. It will make your world a brighter place.
by Tom Karel, MA, CAAC
Sigh… it is that time of year once again: the after the holidays winter blues that we who live in Michigan have come to expect. For many of us, about 90 percent, we notice a mild decrease in energy and increase in lethargy that mildly interferes with our everyday functioning. However, for about 10 percent of us, the “winter blues” can become moderate to severe in its effect. The problem is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
This illness has been well studied and documented over the last 30 years. What has been determined is that those of us in the northern hemisphere during the cloudy, gray, gloomy fall and winter months have significant increases in depression related symptoms. If you reside in Florida during these winter months, your chances of experiencing SAD are 1.4 percent; however if you live in New York, your chances increase to 12.5 percent.
Symptoms of this illness include: feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, depressed/irritable mood, loss of interest and pleasure in things usually enjoyed, increased social isolation, fatigue/loss of energy, increased appetite, especially for carbohydrates, and weight gain.
The tendency for most is to ignore these symptoms. We say, “I’ll just tough it out,” in the hope that it will improve. If left untreated, these symptoms usually do not automatically improve; in fact, they can worsen to include thoughts of death and suicide.
If you have had thoughts of death, harming yourself or suicide: Do Not Wait to Get Help. If these thoughts have occurred, you also think that, “my family and friends are better off without me.” However, let me reassure you: your family and friends are better off with you getting well.
In getting help for yourself, it is important to talk about what’s going on so you can receive the support and encouragement of your family and friends. Reaching out beyond family and friends is also important:
Additionally, it is essential to fight, rather than feed, this illness. For example, if you don’t feel like exercising, don’t wait until you feel like it. For most of us, that won’t happen; instead make plans with a friend to exercise together.
With help, there is hope. We at Pine Rest wish you all a Healthy and Happy New Year!
This article first appeared in the January 27, 2013 edition of the Grand Rapids Press.
Tom Karel, MA, CAAC, is a limited licensed psychologist and certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor at the Pine Rest Campus Clinic. He has worked at Pine Rest since 2000. Pine Rest offers a continuum of behavioral health services; for more information visit www.pinerest.org or call 1-866-852-4001.
Part Four in a series (Originally posted on July 26, 2011)
by Gretchen Johnson, MSN, RN-BC
The good news is postpartum depression (PPD) is treatable. Those who suffer from it are not bad parents. They are not monsters who will hurt or damage themselves, their child, or others. They do have an illness that can be treated. Postpartum and other perinatal mood disorders (PMD) can have serious consequences when left untreated. These consequences affect not just the sufferer but those closest to them as well. The littlest yet most important victims of untreated PMD are the babies.
Research has shown that left untreated, PMD can have serious ramification for the children of those who suffer from it. Problems in babies and children include behavioral issues, problems with emotional and social development, cognitive delays, and a greater risk for lifelong struggles with depression. Some of the research findings include:
• Depression during pregnancy causes problems for the newborn such as inconsolability, sleep problems, decreased appetite, and less responsiveness with facial expressions. • Babies with depressed mothers have a high incidence of excessive crying or colic. • Mothers with PPD report infant sleep and crying problems more frequently than non-depressed mothers. • Children whose fathers suffer with depression are about twice as likely to have behavioral problems in preschool. • PPD in the mother is linked to poor cognitive test scores in children which can include learning to walk and talk later than other children the same age, learning difficulties, and problems in school. • PPD in parents can lead to emotional problems later on for children such as increased anxiety, low self esteem, and less independence. • Older children in the family may lose part of their childhood due to emotional detachment from the child as part of the PPD. • In rare but serious cases, there are instances where a parent commits suicide due to PMD. Children whose parents commit suicide are at greater risk for suicide later in life.
PMD Impacts Children
PMD can and does impact children. The adverse effects can start during pregnancy and occur for multiple reasons. Untreated depression and anxiety during pregnancy impact the developing baby as maternal hormones cross the placenta. These hormones lead to complications after birth such as fussiness, crying, and inconsolability. In one study, researchers looked at the brain activity of babies born to depressed mothers. These babies’ brain activity matched the brain activity of adults diagnosed with major depression.
The effects of untreated PMD continue after birth, changing from biological to environmental. It is difficult for people struggling with depression (not sleeping, irritable mood, tearfulness, appetite problems) to care for an infant. Bonding between mother and baby can be interrupted when the mom is depressed. The mom may have difficulty responding to the infant’s cues. Babies bond with their mother by giving cues (crying when wet or hungry, smiling, cooing) and having the cues responded to appropriately (changing the diaper, feeding, smiling and talking to back). Mothers with PMD may be withdrawn and at times even feel hostile towards the baby making it difficult to respond to or many times even recognize cues.
It is important for all parents struggling with PMD to know that it is not their fault. Please note that it is untreated PMD impacts children. The message for people struggling with PMD is that there is hope and healing but they need to get help. It is easy to read all of the negative impacts of PMD on children and feel discouraged. But getting help not only will allow the parent feel better, but can prevent negative impacts in children as well.
Here is what you can do if you or a loved one is struggling: Look for a good support group in your area. See www.postpartum.net for a support group near you. Find a therapist who has been trained in PMD. Let your physician, psychiatrist, OB/GYN know you are struggling. Remember: this is not your fault and with the right help you will get better.
For more information:
Mother and Baby Program
In West Michigan:
Call 1-866-852-4001 to find the right therapist for you
Gretchen Johnson, MSN, RN-BC, is the Mother and Baby Partial Hospitalization Clinical Services Manager and coordinator in this program’s development. She is a member of the Healthy Kent 2020 Perinatal Mood Disorder Coalition, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and the Psychiatric Nursing Council of Southwest Michigan.
Part Three in a Series (Originally posted May 2, 2011)
by Gretchen Johnson, BSN, RN-BC
While most people have heard of Postpartum Depression (PPD) many do not realize the size and scope of the problem. PPD impacts 15% of new mothers, making it difficult to care for their baby and causes damage to other relationships. And it doesn’t just affect women. Men can get PPD, too. In fact, recent studies have show that 10% of new dads get Postpartum Depression.
Why are men affected? Postpartum Depression in women has been linked to traumatic birth experiences, hormonal changes, thyroid problems, Vitamin D deficiencies, previous history of mental illness, and many other factors. So how is it that men suffer from depression after the birth of a child?
While men may not experience the full spectrum of biological and hormonal changes or other factors that impact women, they are experiencing a change in their role and a major life change. The pressure to be a good dad, the desire to succeed at being a father, and the dramatic life change can bring on PPD in men. Remember, dads also experience the lack of sleep, the frustration of trying to soothe a fussy baby, and the fear of making a mistake.
Some of the symptoms of depression in men include: • Irritability • Increased alcohol consumption • Anger • Depressed mood • Weight loss • Fatigue • Over-working • Suicidal thoughts • Physical complaints such as stomach problems or headaches • Difficulty concentrating
While there is much to be learned about PPD in men, one thing is sure: It is important to get help. Studies have shown that untreated PPD in men leads to marital problems, increased fighting in the home, and decreased bonding with the baby.
In general, men are less likely to get help than women. Unfortunately, it is challenging for men to seek treatment. Many healthcare providers do not realize that PPD can impact men. Further, the stigma for men is greater than for women. Yet, it is so important to get help.
If you or someone you love is struggling, there is hope; for women and men.
Here are some resources:
Mother and Baby Program
And if you’re in Kent County, Michigan: www.dadsgrow.com
Part 2 in the series on Post-Partum Depression and PMD (Originally posted April 4, 2011)
Many women can relate to the emotional roller coaster that dominates the first few weeks after a baby is born—and who wouldn’t be a mess? You’re sore, sleep deprived, in a totally new role (even if this is not your first child), your hormones are out of wack and you have little time to take care of yourself. The term “baby blues” is often used to refer to the mild mood swings that occur after the birth of a child. Nearly 80% of women express experiencing baby blues. Having the baby blues is NOT a disorder. It is completely normal.
Perinatal mood disorders are common (15-20% of women)…but NOT normal. So how do you know if you or a loved one is experiencing something more serious than the baby blues?
The Baby Blues usually has an onset of about one week postpartum and lasts about three weeks. Symptoms include moodiness, tearfulness, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and sadness. These feelings come and go and the predominant mood is actually happiness.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Anxiety (about 15% of women) have an onset any time until one year after the baby is born and lasts longer than three weeks. The highest time of risk for new mothers is six months after delivery. Symptoms include excessive worry, sadness, guilt, hopelessness, sleep problems, fatigue, loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities, change in appetite, irritability, and difficulty making decisions.
Postpartum Psychosis occurs in 1-4 per thousand women. 5% of these women commit suicide and 4% commit infanticide. Women with postpartum psychosis experience hallucinations, delusions, and confusion.
Just as you can be proactive about the physical health of the baby and mother, you can also make preparations during pregnancy to take care of the new mom’s (or your own) emotional and mental health. This is crucial and can help combat PPD. Things that can be done include:
• Get support - bring meals, clean house, hold the baby while the new mom takes a nap, be there to talk and listen • Eliminate stress - let things go that are causing worry • Talk openly- encourage the new mom to share her needs and how she is doing • Follow a healthy diet
While perinatal mood disorders are not normal, they are also NOT a sign of weakness. Every mother deserves to enjoy her new baby. If you or someone you love is suffering, get help. For local resources visit our Mother and Baby Program web page or www.healthykent.org and look for the PMD resource manual under “infant health”. A great place to find help nationwide is by visiting www.postpartum.net.
Why You Should Care About Postpartum Depression (Originally posted March 11, 2011)
Part 1 in a Series by Gretchen Johnson, BSN, RN-BC
A happy time filled with excitement and joy – that’s what most of us envision when someone is having a baby. It’s a celebration of new life – right? The media offers us pictures of smiling (or sleeping) babies and happy, slim, confident, and well groomed mothers. We are so inundated with these images that this has become the expectation of many soon-to-be new moms and the rest of society.
For many women, this is not the reality. Nearly 15% – 1 out of every 7 new moms – experience some form of postpartum depression or perinatal mood disorder (PMD). PMD encompasses mood disorders from pregnancy until one year after a baby is born and includes depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Alongside women, more than 1 in 10 men experience postpartum depression.
PMD is the most common complication of childbirth. If it goes untreated, there can be serious complications for moms, babies,