Home » They’re the Same Picture: Postpartum Rage

They’re the Same Picture: Postpartum Rage

October 1, 2023|Mental Health

Most of us know the famous line from The Office when Pam asks Creed to find the difference between two pictures. As it turns out, in true “Office” fashion, it’s just a prank. There is no difference between the two pictures. The same can be said about postpartum rage.

I told my therapist that I thought my postpartum depression was turning into anger (postpartum rage). Her reply was that anger is often a symptom of depression; they are comorbid, meaning they go hand in hand.

Postpartum anger and rage are signs of postpartum depression, which is a serious medical condition that may affect up to one in nine new mothers. 

You may have Postpartum Rage  if you:

Lash out or “snap” at others easily 

Are unable to cope with your emotions 

Experience extreme irritation 

Feeling the urge, or actually screaming at others 

Ruminating on events or situations longer than usual 

Experiencing violent urges or thoughts 

Physical expressions of anger such as hitting or throwing things 

Causes of Postpartum Rage

Postpartum Rage can have many causes but a few of them are the: 

Sudden drastic changes in hormones 

There is a major shift in your hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, postpartum. This may contribute to the risk of PPD/PPR

Mental health issue history in family or personal life 

Research has found that those who have a family history of PPD were at higher risk of having PPD, which could lead to PPA.

Processing New Emotions in Relation to Mother Hood

Becoming a mother is a big life change. You will now have someone depending on you like never before and that can be very scary to think about. Even if you aren’t a first time mom, you may be going through different emotions of how the new baby will effect your current family dynamic and you may even feel guilty because you think you may not be able to give your children you already have enough attention. Things will fall into place. Your family will adjust just as it did before. Give you and your family some time.

Changing body image 

Your perception of how you look can most certainly impact how you feel about yourself. Your body has literally been your baby’s home, growing and nourishing them for months. It is 100% a miracle. With all that being said, pregnancy can leave behind some changes that don’t just go away as easily as we hoped. It can leave behind a mommy tummy, stretch marks, extra cellulite, and hyperpigmentation to name a few. These drastic changes can make you feel angry about wanting to get back to a body you once had or want to have. It can be very upsetting when what we want to see does not match up with how we are at this moment. 

Societal pressure on what kind of mother you should be 

It’s a common occurrence nowadays to get caught up in what and how other people are doing things. This becomes even more sensitive of a topic when as a first time mom, you may feel like you are already behind the curve. It’s natural to look for guidance but social media, influencers, and even family can present an unrealistic idea of what motherhood really looks like. Also, what it looks like for others may not be what it’s like for you.

Change and lack of sleep 

As a new mother, you will realize that sleep is something that will become precious to you. It’s no surprise that a recent study has found that mother’s quality of sleep and anger about their infant sleep are associated with their overall level of anger.

What It Isn’t

Postpartum rage primarily manifests as intense anger, irritability, or frustration experienced by some individuals after giving birth. It’s essential to distinguish these symptoms from common emotional reactions or unrelated issues. Here are some things that likely aren’t symptoms of postpartum rage:

1. Feeling Overwhelmed or Stressed: 

While stress and feeling overwhelmed are common in the postpartum period, postpartum rage involves a specific intensity of anger and frustration.

2. Occasional Mood Swings: Postpartum rage isn’t characterized by occasional mood swings; it’s a persistent and intense anger that can interfere with daily functioning.

3. Typical Mood Changes: Normal hormonal fluctuations and emotional changes following childbirth are expected, but they usually do not escalate to the level of rage.

4. General Fatigue or Tiredness: 

Fatigue is common in new mothers, but postpartum rage involves uncharacteristic outbursts of anger disproportionate to the situation.

5. Feeling Sad or Crying Spells: Postpartum rage primarily involves anger, irritability, and frustration rather than predominant feelings of sadness or frequent crying. Postpartum depression is more specifically focused on this aspect.

6. Difficulty Bonding with the Baby: 

Difficulty bonding with the baby can be a separate issue and is not directly related to postpartum rage, although it can contribute to overall stress and emotional challenges. This is also more specific to PPD.

7. Anxiety Disorders or Panic Attacks: 

While anxiety and panic attacks can coexist with postpartum rage, they are distinct conditions that may require separate evaluation and treatment.

It’s important to note that individuals may experience a range of emotions during the postpartum period, and not everyone will experience postpartum rage. If you’re concerned about your emotional well-being or experiencing symptoms that are impacting your daily life, it’s crucial to reach out to a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and appropriate guidance.

Treatment:

Support

Sometimes, even if someone can’t fix your situation or your mood, it just helps if you have someone’s support. This has found to be true in relation to women in their postpartum period. It has also been found that not having support or a good relationship with those around you from where support is expected, can trigger anger in mothers. If at all possible, choose your village wisely. Unfortunately the saying, “We are the company we keep”, can be especially true at such a tender time. Try to have a least one person who you can talk to, even if it’s a paid therapist. Finding a support group in person or online is very helpful as well. Support groups have been found to reduce PPD symptoms. With PPD and Postpartum rage being so closely related due to anger being a symptom of depression, anger is definitely one symptom that can be reduced by having a group to talk to. Even so, it’s nice to have someone to relate too.

Pharmacotherapy 

SSRIS, such as Zoloft, have been found effective in treating anger. Research has found that anger levels have improved after just one week of treatment using sertraline.

I understand this is not a route everyone wants to take so it may be a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of taking medication to improve your mental health. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to come up with a game plan. Also, if you are planning to breastfeed or if you already are, know that there are breastfeeding safe medications out there like sertraline.

Therapy 

As mentioned before support groups can help but sometimes people benefit more from a more focused approach. CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, has been found effective at reducing the prevalence of PPD and the symptoms that come along with it like anger. You can ask your doctor about a referral for therapy or you can try online options like Talk Space and BetterHelp if accessibility is an issue, or rather just more convenient. The easier it is for you to get help the better. 

Take Five

Sometimes we all just need a break. You can have the best job in the world, and many a mother will tell you they do, but even so you still need time for yourself. There is nothing wrong with just going to Target and buying nothing (good luck with that) and just looking around while you sip your Starbucks. It may be a small thing, but it may allow for you to take the breather you desperately needed. Don’t underestimate the power of a small break. You also don’t need to “do” anything either. If anyone is available to watch your little one, just go to your room to take a nap. This definitely counts as a break too. 

If you’re experiencing postpartum rage, know you aren’t alone and you are not the first and unfortunately not the last to face something like this. Take solace in knowing there may be someone right now going through the same emotions, maybe even the same experiences as you too. This can be such a lonely time even if you are surrounded by people that love you due to the drastic changes you’re going through. It can be so hard believing anyone knows how you feel. It may take some time, but you can find what works for you by talking to your provider, counselors, support groups, friends, and family. Just take it one day at time, and if you need to, one hour at time. As they say, the days are long but the years are short.

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