Postpartum depression (PPD) is being talked about more often, with celebrities from Chrissy Teigen to Adele having spoken out about their experiences with PPD. Still, so much continues to be misunderstood. The mystery surrounding PPD doesn’t just keep unhelpful stigma alive — it also keeps more parents from discovering a potential diagnosis and accessing the help they need to start feeling better.
PPD has the potential to impact everyone differently, (even dads!) and so-called “expected” signs like being weepy or feeling blue aren’t universal or necessarily typical. There are several signs and symptoms of postpartum depression that are lesser known or go unreported, and here, we’ll outline six different signs of PPD that might come as a surprise.
What are unexpected signs of postpartum depression?
While the name “postpartum depression” itself makes it easy to assume that PPD is defined by feelings of sadness or depression similar to clinical depression, one of the more common emotions felt by people experiencing PPD is rage.
Those suffering from PPD can experience uncontrollable anger directed in several ways — towards themselves, their partner, their family and friends, and their new baby. These feelings can not only be incredibly distressing because of their intensity, they can also make the sufferer feel like they are a monster who hates their child and is unfit to be a parent. But this is not true, and with the right help, overcoming these feelings is possible.
Of the many vicious ways that postpartum depression can impact a new parent, insomnia is one of the most destructive. Combined with all the other stressors of new parenting — including a fussy baby with its own irregular sleep schedule — lack of sleep has the ability to make feelings of stress, helplessness, confusion, and anxiety even worse. Although sleep deprivation is a relatively expected part of being a new parent, a persistent lack of sleep is known to increase instances of PPD or exacerbate existing symptoms.
Feeling “on edge”
Another symptom that contrasts with what many people think of when they hear the words “depression” or “baby blues” is anxiety. Anxiety and feelings of uncertainty or uneasiness are a common sign of postpartum depression, leaving moms feeling on edge. People experiencing this symptom may feel like they can’t relax no matter how hard they try, startle easily, or have racing thoughts that won’t stop.
Loss of interest in everything…including the baby
Those experiencing PPD may find that they have suddenly lost interest in the things they used to love and enjoy, and they rarely feel excited about anything — including bonding with the baby. This symptom can be particularly hard, because moms may worry that they’ll feel this way forever, never experiencing that special connection with their baby that other moms talk about.
Unfortunately, stress brought on by this symptom only makes the situation worse. However, feeling this way isn’t a signal to doom-spiral. It’s completely normal to go through periods of high and low excitement about life, and parents do need time to themselves. But for those who constantly feel “blah” or those who continue struggling to bond with the baby, a visit to the doctor may be necessary. Treatment plans might include medication, therapy, or both.
A particularly scary symptom of postpartum depression, some parents experiencing PPD may find themselves having dark, disturbing thoughts. This might mean thoughts of harming themselves or others, including the baby (this can also be a sign of postpartum OCD).
This symptom can seem so scary that parents don’t even want to talk about it out of a fear that other people will think they’re terrible or “going crazy.” But, this can be a common sign of PPD. Those experiencing this should talk about it with someone they trust, a doctor, and/or a therapist.
Sadly, no matter how many speak out about the normalcy of stress and struggles in parenting, many parents still feel pressure to be perfect and happy most of the time. Experiencing any of the above symptoms of postpartum depression can easily trigger yet another symptom — guilt. New moms who are struggling to feel at ease and delighted with their baby may start to question their abilities, leading them to feel that they are letting their baby, their partner, or others down. In cases like this, it’s important for parents to remember that feelings aren’t facts, and reaching out for help is the most important step to take.