4 Differences Between Clinical Depression and Post-Partum Depression

Statisticians at the National Alliance on Mental Illness report that females experience twice the rate of depression as males. These experts say that roughly one in eight women will battle a depressive episode at least once during her lifetime regardless of race or ethnic background. Certain seasons of a woman’s life may raise the risk for these problems, so read on to understand the characteristics of one particularly vulnerable time—the weeks and months following childbirth—and how it differs from clinical depression.

#1 Clinical Depression Is More Common

Disappointment and grief are part of life, but depression may be to blame if sadness lingers for a considerable time and interferes with your ability to function. Major depression impacts mood, mind, body and behavior, but, although nearly 15 million Americans experience it each year, only one third of them get help. The rest suffer from seemingly intolerable symptoms, such as losing hope and having a poor self-image, trouble concentrating and even intrusive thoughts of dying. Symptoms of depression among women also include bouts of anxiety, weight gain and outward expressions of anger and hostility. In fact, physicians at the Mayo Clinic argue that major mood changes and reproductive health events are linked, as hormones play a major role in depressive disturbances[1]. As many as 40% of menstruating women experience premenstrual mood and behavior changes. However, postpartum depression strikes fewer females, between nine and 16% of women who give birth (according to estimates by the American Psychological Association)[2].

#2 Postpartum Depression Has Specific Triggers

Clinical depression can be triggered by myriad events and circumstances—from the loss of a loved one or career to darkness during winter months and natural disasters—but postpartum depression (PPD) is always catalyzed by childbirth. This latter condition is much more than a case of the “baby blues,” and it is likely connected to the significant life changes and increased responsibilities of caring for a newborn. Women are also more susceptible to this condition due to chronic sleep deprivation and fluctuating hormones—two conditions that come with the territory for new mothers.

#3 Postpartum Depression Requires Fighting a Unique Stigma

For most women, PPD comes by surprise, as most people anticipate a new baby as a joyous event. As a result, women can be blindsided by the feelings of hopelessness, incompetence and extreme lethargy they bring home from the hospital along with their new children. Women who experience PPD often struggle to express their feelings, in part because of the expectations society places on new mothers. Women with newborns are expected to be nurturing, warm and maternal, but women with PPD often feel ambivalent or regretful of having a child—they may even have thoughts of hurting themselves or their children. The discrepancy between the ideal mother and the actual experience of motherhood may produce shame—a problem that heightens depression and isolates people. In response, new mothers may feel pressure to ride out the storm alone; they may fear admitting to a mental health condition, because they think it means they lack the skills to be mothers at all.

However, this view is simply false. Overcoming PPD often means learning to share uncomfortable emotions, even in the face of stereotypes and stigmas. By speaking up and reaching out for help—ideally from a mix of loved ones and specialized professionals—you or your loved one can make a full recovery.

#4 Getting Better Means Monitoring Your Mood, not Just the Baby

Depression is a mental health condition with a high relapse rate, especially among women who have struggled with PPD, so constant vigilance is the key to recovery. Although it is easy for new mothers to get caught up in their new duties and to neglect their own self-care, one of the best ways they can care for their families is to keep a close watch on their own health. Experts at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health argue that women should actively monitor their mood changes to stay healthy[3]. To accomplish this task, they should keep a list of their personal warning signs. Pay close attention to changes in sleep disturbances, hopeless thoughts and appetite fluctuations, because all these problems can be part and parcel of having a baby or impending danger.

Lastly, women can avoid symptoms of depression by keeping a ready list of easy, affordable activities when they get down. Invite a friend to go with you to watch your child, because then you can not only break your babysitting routine, but also shatter the isolation that commonly impacts mothers with depression. Positive steps may be the very best way a mother can care for her family, too, perhaps by walking around the block with your baby in a stroller, taking a bath with candles or scheduling coffee with a friend.

Recovery from Addiction to Steroids and Postpartum Depression

If you or someone you love struggles with steroid abuse and postpartum depression, then know that help is available. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can guide you to wellness, so do not go it alone when help is just one phone call away. Start your recovery now by reaching out for professional support.


[1] Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20047725

[2] http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/depression/postpartum.aspx

[3] Retrieved from http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/concurrent_disorders/a_family_guide_to_concurrent_disorders/relapse_prevention/Pages/relapse_prevention_subuse.aspx