Research shows that women are more vulnerable to depression than men. About 1 in 10 women will experience depressive symptoms in their lives, and they are about twice more likely to suffer from major depression than men. Women who give birth are also susceptible to postpartum depression, a specific category of depression that occurs after having a baby.
While many women experience sadness or tiredness in the days or weeks after giving birth, some will suffer these symptoms for an extended period of time. Feelings of worry, grief, and exhaustion may carry on for months on end. Or, they may develop several months after giving birth. Both cases are examples of postpartum depression.
If you or a loved one is facing postpartum depression, you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in every 8 women will experience postpartum depression.
Sometimes, women will try to cope with postpartum depression by turning to drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and drugs are known to have mind-altering, feel-good effects that provide a temporary escape. The problem is, this is a fleeting high. Women that use substances to cope with negative feelings are therefore at a high risk of substance addiction, as they continue to drink and use to “feel better.”
Studies show that close to 15 percent of women who had postpartum depression (and who were less than a year out from giving birth) engaged in binge drinking, while about 9 percent of these women reported abusing drugs. This rate is higher than that of women who did not give birth, or who did, but did not have postpartum depression.
What are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression often manifests with symptoms very similar to major depression, with lasting periods of sadness and feeling hopeless. According to the CDC, postpartum depression may look like:
- Crying more often than usual.
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or “empty” for a long period of time.
- Lasting feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or grief.
- Feelings of anger or irritability.
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities.
- Withdrawal from loved ones.
- Loss of energy and inability to take care of baby, or do things around the house.
- Feeling numb or disconnected from the baby.
- Worrying that she will hurt the baby.
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting her ability to care for the baby.
- Problems concentrating, recalling details, and making decisions.
- Difficulty falling asleep, restlessness, or simply sleeping too much.
- Overeating or loss of appetite.
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.
Every case of postpartum depression is unique. How long the symptoms last, when they occur, and how severe they may feel will vary for each woman. Left untreated, however, these symptoms can spiral into an array of negative effects – for both mother and child.
According to the Office on Women’s Health, untreated postpartum depression can affect one’s ability to parent. Mothers may not have enough energy to care for the baby, or struggle to focus on what the baby needs. If this prolongs throughout childhood, this can greatly affect the child, leading to developmental delays, behavior problems, stress-related issues, and problems with mother-child bonding.
When a mother cannot bond with her child, or when she feels like a “bad mom,” it can make depression worse. It can also spiral into other conditions, included a substance use disorder. If you or your loved one is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, do not hesitate to seek help. This is a condition that can be treated and managed with the proper care.
The Link Between Postpartum Depression and Substance Addiction
The symptoms of postpartum depression are difficult. And, as noted above, women may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. This is called self-medication. Sometimes, women with postpartum depression will try to self-manage their negative feelings by turning to the bottle, or another substance. Drugs and alcohol can provide a short-term relief from negative thoughts and feelings. Long-term, however, they can exacerbate symptoms of depression. This may make women use more and more of a substance to feel better, or feel its effects. Thus begins the addiction cycle.
We can see in the statistics that women with postpartum depression are at a greater risk for substance abuse compared to postpartum women without depressive symptoms. But did you know that women who have a history of substance abuse are also likely to develop this postpartum condition? Between 19% and 47% of women with a history of substance use develop symptoms of postpartum depression after giving birth.
When postpartum depression and substance abuse occur in the same women, at the same time, the condition is called co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders are more common in women than men. It is estimated that up to 80 percent of young women suffering from substance addiction are also battling a mental health disorder.
Treating Postpartum Depression and Addiction
Postpartum depression should never be managed with substances, but instead with professional therapy and treatment. Substance abuse can make symptoms of depression severely worse, as depression is a common withdrawal symptom and side effect of drug addiction.
Co-occurring disorders like depression and substance addiction require a specialized form of treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment is an integrated, multi-dimensional form of treatment that addresses both disorders – the mental health disorder, and the substance use disorder – at the same time and in the same place. It assesses how both disorders are interrelated, and how treatment can be unified for the most successful chance at recovery. Without dual diagnosis treatment, women may not recover successfully from both disorders.
Turnbridge is a leader in dual diagnosis treatment for young women. If you or your loved one is struggling with depressive symptoms and addiction, do not hesitate to give us a call. Treating these co-occurring disorders immediately can give your loved one a better chance of achieving a lasting recovery. Turnbridge at 877-581-1793 to learn more.