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Can Post-Partum Depression Lead to Addiction?

Can Post-Partum Depression Lead to Addiction?

Many women experience a form of depression, often referred to as the baby blues, after giving birth to their child. A combination of hormone fluctuations, feelings of being overwhelmed, and the physical demands of caring for a newborn can all contribute to the baby blues. The symptoms of the baby blues may include moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, appetite changes, and concentration problems. These symptoms typically show up shortly after giving birth and may last from several days to a couple of weeks.

Symptoms of Post-Partum Depression

However, according to, post-partum depression is a more serious form of depression that requires care and treatment. The most obvious distinction between the baby blues and post-partum depression is that the symptoms of post-partum depression are often more severe and longer lasting. Untreated, these symptoms can lead to suicidal thoughts or an inability to care for your newborn. Specific signs of post-partum depression include the following:

  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Negative feelings towards your baby
  • Worrying about hurting your baby
  • Lack of concern for yourself
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you need to speak with your healthcare provider who can discuss options for treatment. If you have had a previous history of depression, severe PMS, medical complications, relationship issues, or lack support from family or friends, it is even more important that you seek help.

Can Post-Partum Depression Lead to Addiction?

Whenever a mental health issue and addiction are discussed together, there is always the question whether the mental health issue led to the addiction or if addiction was the impetus for the mental health issue. In the article, Depression and Substance Abuse: The Chicken or the Egg?, Psych Central discusses this topic.

The article states that depressive disorders can cause feelings of overwhelming sadness, hopelessness, numbness, isolation, sleep disorders, digestive and food-related disorders. When left untreated, these symptoms may lead people suffering from depression to self-medicate.

The article points out that there are several reasons that self-medication is not a viable option. For one, the substance that a person uses to self-medicate may be a depressive agent. This would actually cause a temporary release from the original depression but increase the depressive symptoms. Additionally, if you are taking a medication for your depression, some self-medicating substances may either negate or enhance the medication causing an inappropriate dosage.

Probably the most disconcerting reason to avoid self-medication is what the article refers to as “withdrawal depression,” which is what occurs each time the substance leaves the body. This type of depression, along with the post-partum depression, can actually encourage people to abuse the substance further.

Has Your Post-Partum Depression Led to Addiction?

The Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness (PMDA) is a registered non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness, education and advocacy for postpartum depression and perinatal mood disorders. In their article Postpartum Addiction, the group warns that substance abuse in conjunction with perinatal mood disorders is used as a way of coping with a difficult period in one’s life, and a route to masking emotions. However, this co-occurring condition can have an effect on the entire family.

The article suggests that if you fear you are at risk for substance abuse, check the following list of symptoms:

  • You struggle to hide drugs or alcohol from children and other family members
  • Your marriage and relationships are suffering because of drug or alcohol use
  • You find yourself less interested in activities that once brought you great joy
  • You have accidentally forgotten or neglected your children because of substance use
  • Your children have seen you high, drunk, or “sleeping it off”
  • You recognize that something is not right
  • You feel overwhelmed and afraid to talk about these feelings

If you are experiencing these symptoms, especially in conjunction with the symptoms of depression, you need to get help as soon as possible.

Treatment and Lifestyle Changes for Post-Partum Depression and Substance Abuse

PMDA recognizes that some mothers are fearful to reach out for help, but there are programs that provide the necessary psychotherapy and counseling while allowing the mother to return home to care for her child. Through these services, women can get detox support and other services they need to address both the addiction and mental health issue In addition, self-help support groups provide tremendous support with a flexible schedule.

A lifestyle that includes regular exercise, healthy meals, a good night’s sleep, and spending time outdoors will also be very beneficial to overcoming depression and addiction. Exercise acts like a natural anti-depressant, increasing endorphins and creating a natural high in the body. Regularly scheduled healthy meals keep up your energy level, and a good night’s sleep rejuvenates your body and mind.

Get Help for Depression and Addiction

If you are suffering with depression and addiction, you have a co-occurring condition, also referred to as a Dual Diagnosis. These two concurrent issues require an integrated treatment approach in which both the mental health issue and the addiction are addressed concurrently. It is important that you seek help as soon as you can to avoid exacerbating either issue. We know that you may have several questions about integrated treatment and your options, and we can help answer them. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free helpline are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about your treatment options.