About 1 in 5 people will struggle with anxiety at some point in their lives. It’s not uncommon that the birth of a child can trigger the onset of anxiety.
It’s natural for new parents to worry about their baby, about their partner, and about their finances. When that worry impacts one’s ability to function, it becomes problematic.
Postpartum anxiety has been shown to affect more women than postpartum depression, but it has not received the attention that it deserves. When it comes to men, not much has been done to track its occurrence.
Postpartum anxiety often goes undiagnosed and untreated. So how can you know if your partner may be struggling?
- They worry… a lot. As I said before, worry is a normal part of parenthood. Is my child going to be healthy? happy? successful? Sometimes it goes well beyond that though. Some people will start worrying about catastrophic events happening or about someone or something harming the baby. Others will even begin to think that they themselves may do something either accidentally or intentionally to harm the child. These thoughts are irrational and disturbing and indicate that the person likely has anxiety.
- Financial difficulties. Severe anxiety can impact one’s ability to gain or maintain employment. It also impacts one’s ability to think clearly which can lead to difficulty managing finances. Being the sole breadwinner for a growing family is a huge responsibility and one that can become overwhelming at times.
- They seem tense or uneasy. Anxiety can often present itself in the form of agitation and restlessness. If your partner has difficulty unwinding or relaxing, it may indicate they are struggling with anxiety. They may also be more irritable and quicker to anger than normal. It’s not uncommon for couples where at least one person is diagnosed with anxiety to report lower marital satisfaction and more fights or arguments.
- They’re tired all the time. Fatigue is often associated with depression, but when someone is up all night worrying, it makes sense that they will be exhausted the next day. String together several restless nights and you have a recipe for disaster. Sleep is so important to our mind and our bodies. It’s hard enough to sleep with a new baby in the home, but, for someone with anxiety, they may not be able to rest even when everyone else in the home is.
- They often cancel plans with friends or family. Having anxiety can be an isolating experience; you often feel like you’re the only one. It can also take an immense amount of energy to “put on a happy face.” After all, you just had a baby, isn’t this supposed to be the happiest time in your life? Constantly feeling like you have to put on a performance for friends and relatives can be exhausting and something that someone with anxiety may strive to avoid at all costs.
If your partner is exhibiting these symptoms, it may be due to anxiety. Only a trained mental health professional can determine for sure.
If you suspect that your partner may be struggling, there are things that you can do to help. I’ll be taking a deeper look at some of these next week, but here are some basics:
- Listen. Hear what they have to say and try to imagine for yourself what they are feeling. Keep an open mind, and try not to disregard what they say as foolish or silly.
- Learn. Educate yourself about anxiety. Find out what the symptoms, warning signs, and triggers may be.
- Be supportive. Continue to love and support your partner as you always have. They aren’t choosing to be anxious.
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