When my first son was about two months old, I started having graphic nightmares. This was also the same time period when I would find myself randomly pulling over on the side of the road to take deep breaths because I would suddenly find it hard to breathe. There was a pressure in my chest that sent me to the doctor for a series of tests, only to determine that was (thankfully) physically healthy, but suffering emotionally. What I thought was symptoms of a terrible disease, turned out to be signs of postpartum anxiety, something many women experience after giving birth.
As psychologist Jonathan Abramowitz told Parents magazine, postpartum anxiety is a hidden disorder, because it is often unrecognized and undiagnosed. This condition looks a lot like regular anxiety, but with more of a focus around your new child or your new role as a parent. If I had not made that appointment to see my doctor for my chest pain, it's possible I would have suffered alone and continued to worry about what was wrong with me.
If you're experiencing more worry and panic after having a baby, check these 11 signs of postpartum anxiety to see if they sound familiar. You don't have to live with this, help is available.
1. You Worry Nonstop
A moderate level of worry is normal when you have a newborn, but when you can't turn it off, it's time to take notice. When a new mother experiences constant worry, it's a sign of postpartum anxiety, according to the website for Postpartum Support International.
2. You Experience Shortness Of Breathe
Finding it hard to breathe, or being short on breath is a red flag that you're experiencing postpartum anxiety, as Baby Center pointed out. This is one I experienced often and made me question what was happening.
3. You Fear Making Mistakes
No one likes to make mistakes, especially if it effects others. But constantly worrying that if you do something wrong your baby will get hurt is a sign of postpartum anxiety, according to U.S. News and World Report's website.
4. You Have Excessive Fear
Parenthood can certainly bring on some new fears since you are responsible for a small human. However, the website Psychotherapy.com cautioned that having an excessive amount of fear about your new role means it's time to find some help.
5. You Feel Like Things Are Out Of Control
The increased responsibility that comes with being a new parent can take it's toll. When normal feelings of stress escalate to feeling out of control after becoming a new mom, it's a sign of postpartum anxiety, as Psychology Today pointed out.
6. You Have Trouble Focusing
There is so much to do when you have a new baby, it's easy to become scattered and forgetful. According to the website for the American Pregnancy Association, if you have consistent trouble focusing and can't seem to snap out of it, it's possible you have postpartum anxiety.
7. You Have Reocurring, Frightening Thoughts
This is what I was experiencing when I closed my eyes — the terribly haunting images of my dreams would bleed into my day and not leave my mind. The Center For Women's Mood Disorders on UNC School of Medicine's website reported that "repeated thoughts or images of frightening things happening to the baby," means you're experiencing postpartum anxiety.
8. You Struggle To Sleep
New moms are notorious for enjoying very little sleep as it is, but if you just can't seem to sleep, or struggle with insomnia, talk to your doctor about postpartum anxiety, as Parents magazine suggested.
9. You Have A Loss Of Appetite
This can be a symptom of a few mood disorders associated with the postpartum period, but if you are experiencing loss of appetite in conjunction with other postpartum anxiety symptoms, it's time to call your doctor, according to Postpartum Support International.
10. You Suffer From Hot & Cold Flashes
As Baby Center reported, one of the more physical symptoms of postpartum anxiety is experiencing flashes of hot and/or cold body temperature. If this happens more than once, it may be related less to hormonal changes and more to anxiety.
11. You Feel Like You're Going Crazy
If you've never struggled with anxiety before, the experience can make you feel like you're loosing your mind. As Psychotherapy.com pointed out, the sensation that you are going crazy or coming undone is common among women with postpartum anxiety.