Postpartum OCD – Symptoms and Treatment
What is Postpartum OCD?
Perinatal or Postpartum OCD that is a type of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder that affects primarily expectant or new mothers. Approximately 60% to 80% of new mothers experience depressed mood or the “baby blues;” however, only 3% to 5% of mothers experience Perinatal OCD before the birth of their child or Postpartum OCD after the birth. This condition can be highly distressing and frightening for an expectant or new mother and can turn what should be a happy and exciting time into a disturbing and overwhelming experience.
Common Symptoms of Postpartum OCD
Common Obsessions of Postpartum OCD
The obsessions common to Perinatal or Postpartum OCD vary from mother to mother but may include:
- Extreme fear of harming their child through careless actions
- Unwanted thoughts of harming the fetus through medication, germs, chemicals, or certain foods
- Unwanted thoughts about stabbing their baby or suffocating them
- Extreme fear of making bad decisions that may lead to a dangerous outcome (raising their child wrong)
- Fear of passing on a dangerous disease to their child
Common Compulsions of Postpartum OCD
Like obsessions, the compulsions developed in order to cope with intrusive thoughts also vary from mother to mother. Some common compulsions see in Perinatal or Postpartum OCD include:
- Hiding sharp objects like knives and scissors
- Avoiding feeding the child due to fear of accidentally poisoning them
- Avoiding certain types of food, medicine, or their normal routine to prevent any harm to the fetus
- Mentally reviewing and replaying the events of each day to ensure that they didn’t cause any harm to their child
- Avoiding any type of media related to infanticide or child abuse
Perinatal and Postpartum OCD can be successfully treated but is often misdiagnosed as depression or goes unnoticed by health professionals. Most mothers are reluctant to seek treatment due to fear of losing their child or appearing “crazy.”
Treatment for Postpartum OCD
People suffering from Perinatal or Postpartum OCD are encouraged to seek treatment from a mental health treatment provider that specializes in the treatment of OCD. OCD specialists are equipped and prepared to treat a wide array of OCD subtypes, including Perinatal or Postpartum OCD . Like all types of OCD, Perinatal or Postpartum OCD can be treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specifically with treatment approaches called Exposure with Response Prevention (ERP), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
Mindful-Based CBT teaches patients that everyone experiences intrusive thoughts. Individuals will also learn that intrusive thoughts have no power over them and that by responding to their thoughts through compulsive behaviors, their thoughts are given more strength and credibility and their fears and obsessions are strengthened and reinforced. Mindfulness-Based CBT is a very effective OCD treatment, especially when combined with ERP.
ERP exposes patients to situations related to their intrusive thoughts that cause them anxiety. The goal of this treatment is for the patient to prevent himself or herself from completing their compulsive behaviors when triggered by intrusive thoughts. The situations that are confronted will intensify over time, until the patient can face and overcome their most feared scenario. Once they are able to stop themselves from responding to their intrusive thoughts with compulsive behaviors, they can experience tremendous relief from the symptoms of OCD.
If patients are suffering from severe levels of anxiety due to their OCD, they may benefit from participating in treatment at an Intensive Outpatient (IOP) OCD treatment program, as is offered by The Gateway Institute. The Gateway Institute offers Intensive Outpatient treatment options as well as regular outpatient psychotherapy sessions, and a free, 30 minute face-to-face consultation with one of our experienced and caring clinicians at all three of our beautiful locations in Orange County, Scottsdale, Arizona, and the San Francisco Bay Area. OCD symptoms typically worsen over time and can take over a person’s life, so it is very important to seek OCD treatment as soon as possible with a skilled and dedicated OCD specialist who can provide expertise and support during this journey.
Other Common Sub-Types of OCD
It is not uncommon for an individual suffering from one OCD sub-type to also suffer from other sub-types. Treating co-occurring sub-types simultaneously is important in finding balance and healing from OCD.
The Gateway Institute is here to support you in getting the help that you need.
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