Psychotherapy and Postnatal Depression

Facing Post Natal Depression

Gwyneth Paltrow, talking about her “painfully debilitating” postnatal depression after the birth of her son Moses, says that she found her way out of it by facing what she was feeling, rather than shutting her feelings out. 

Attempting to face what we are feeling, although very difficult at times, is key. Trying to make sense of confusing and negative thoughts and feelings, with the help of an experienced therapist, really can start to make meaning of such confusion.

Bryce Dallas Howard (American film actress and daughter of Ron Howard), when recounting her experience of postnatal depression, has recently described how she fell into a black hole. Moreover, she realises then, whilst in the middle of it, that she actually couldn’t even begin to express her true feelings.  She says, “if I had been able to convey my ordeal with postnatal depression truthfully… I would most likely have said no words at all.”

In those moments after giving birth Howard says she felt nothing, she felt she was suffering emotional amnesia. She says she couldn’t genuinely cry, or laugh, or be moved by anything. And yet, in private uncontrollable sobs would flow. She describes how she saw a therapist who diagnosed her with postnatal depression and little by little began to feel better.

Feeling emotionally overwhelmed, anxious, isolated, deeply sad, or just simply nothing because there is too much to feel, are all symptoms of postnatal depression. These feelings are similar to other forms of (clinical) depression and can be eased with the outlet of emotional support and verbal expression.

Depression following the birth of a child is undoubtedly very difficult to understand, particularly, as such darkness and aloneness seem to accompany what is seen as a celebratory, almost euphoric time. Consequently, this pressure, along with our own, mostly unconscious histories of our experience of being parented, are thrown into the mix and it can be simply too much to make sense of alone.

Brooke Shields wrote her account of postpartum depression in her book Down came the Rain. Following the birth of her daughter, Rowan, she describes feeling as though rain came pouring down. She describes postpartum depression as the most frightening and devastating challenge in her life. As a consequence of feeling so isolated and debilitated, Shields vocally speaks out about her experience. She is keen to encourage the importance of talking about feelings with a professional.

We at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice in Harley Street, London, are also keen to emphasise the importance of being able to ask for help and to receive supportive, professional help.  To begin to make sense of such unbearable feelings can enable us to start to feel connected to ourselves and to ensure a healthy attachment with our children and families.

Women and Mid-Life Depression

How can Psychotherapy Help with Mid-Life Depression?

Journalist Allison Pearson, in an article in today’s edition of the Daily Mail, writes of her struggle with depression and suggests that women hitting their middle years, and of this generation, are prone to the condition. Emma Thompson and Fiona Phillips are cited  as high profile women who, having hit mid-life are experiencing depression.

What hits many women approaching mid life is multiple loss and with loss, comes depression.  Loss doesn’t have to be about death – it can be about a loss of identity, a loss of purpose or meaning in life. Women who have had a career may be plateauing at this point, realising that it’s not all they want and, indeed,  that there are a hundred younger women behind them, snapping at their heels.   Of course looks and youth are a loss to the mid-lifer – the demise of youth and beauty, and the premium society puts on appearance, means that as they age, women can experience a kind of bereavement.  As mothers, moving into middle age there is  also a loss to negotiate; that of  the dependent child. Watching children separate and move away can be a tremendous loss to a mid-life mother; the purpose and focus of life has changed. Fertility is also on the decline and for the mid-life women, this too may be experienced as a loss – a point in life where women may re-evaluate who they are.

These life changes that middle aged women come up against go largely unacknowledged. A mid-life woman presenting at a GP with depression will be frequently sent home with a prescription which may well make them feel better -but not understood.  Therapy with a professional psychotherapist, such as those at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice in London, can help explore the feelings of loss,  reduce the depression and help the individual move on to explore new opportunities.

Post Natal Depression and Therapy

Post Natal Depression and Therapy

One in ten mothers are likely to suffer from post natal depression. The condition comes with the usual symptoms of depression; low mood, low motivation, anxiety, poor sleep and relationship difficulties. The condition, untreated or unnoticed, can persist for months and occasionally, years. Women with a history of depression or a difficult relationship with a partner or their own mother, are more likely to suffer with PND.

It’s normal to experience confused feelings around mother hood. On one level you may be delighted to be a mother, on the other, you may feel sad, or at times angry, that you’ve lost your old life and your freedom. You may have ambivalent feelings about your baby; you may love him or her but, if you’ve had a difficult relationship with your own mother, you may be anxious about bonding with your own child and anxious about the kind of mother you might be.  Expressing these mixed feelings is hard; there’s huge pressure on us to bloom as new mothers but it’s important that you monitor your feelings and seek help for post natal depression. Talking to a therapist who will not judge you, but support you, can really help relieve the symptoms and stop the feelings from overwhelming you and enable you to move forward and build a greater sense of confidence as a woman and as a mother.

If you are pregnant and depressed, or  have a history of depression, it may be a good idea to seek some short term, focused counselling or psychotherapy before the baby is born – this way you may be able to prevent the onset of post natal depression and be better able to form a healthy and happy relationship with your baby.

The therapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice in London can help you.