Could “Postpartum Schizophrenia” Explain Casey Anthony’s Behavior?

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Casey AnthonyIn an interview with Dr. Phil that aired this week, the mother of Casey Anthony explained away her daughter’s behavior by blaming everything from a possible tumor to seizures to “postpartum schizophrenia.”

First, to answer what I know is your immediate question, no, in my seven years as a national advocate for women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders I have not heard of postpartum schizophrenia.  I have heard of postpartum psychosis, which can arise due to underlying bipolar disorder, previous psychotic episodes, or a family history of such.  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way …

As reported by ABC News, Cindy pondered, “I’m almost wondering if she didn’t develop postpartum schizophrenia or some issue after her pregnancy, a hormonal type of illness.”

Did Casey see and hear things that weren’t there?  Did she believe she was suddenly unique and special in some way, have some greater purpose, mission, powers or that she had or her baby had been possessed?  Was she highly paranoid?  Did her behavior change drastically, or become odd compared to the Casey you knew, Cindy?  Did she see any type of physician who indicated that Casey had symptoms of psychosis or schizophrenia?

I just have to wonder why this has never been brought up until now.  Or did I just miss it?  I imagine any indications that Casey may have been psychotic in the year after Caylee’s birth could have been prime ammunition for her lawyer Jose Baez to have brought up at trial.

Instead, Baez said all indications were that Casey was a healthy and happy mother.

Instead, Cindy Anthony has just furthered the idea that women with any type of postpartum “hormonal” illness lie, steal, and even worse, harm their children.  It’s Just. Not. True.

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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  1. Perhaps she did have a postpartum spectrum disorder. It crossed my mind many times when I would hear about this story. However, I have a hard time believing that any mother who has actually suffered a pospartum illness that was severe enough that she would harm her baby would, after being faced with the reality of what she had done, even consider a non-guilty plea. The overwhelming guilt that, in my experience, accompanies postpartum illness is almost as bad as the illness itself. I never physically harmed my children but I carry an everlasting pang of guilt for every time I held my screaming baby at arm's length in contemptible tears and put him/her back in their crib to leave them screaming because "Mommy couldn't handle it." Guilt for every time I screamed or cried in front of them and wished them or I weren't there. If Ms. Anthony had been truly suffering a postpartum illness, I believe the guilt over what she had done would have killed her by now.

  2. So if they are trying to explain her behavior, does this mean that they're admitting that she did it?

    • Katherine Stone says:

      I think Cindy was focused on other behavior like the lying and stealing and not telling anyone Caylee was missing for months.

  3. "Instead, Cindy Anthony has just furthered the idea that women with any type of postpartum “hormonal” illness lie, steal, and even worse, harm their children. It’s Just. Not. True."

    ^^You hit the nail on the head. Thank you for summing it up this way.

  4. Katherine (NOT Stone says:

    Chrissie, Caylee was almost three.

    If Casey Anthoney had postpartum psychosis, that would be a long time to live with it without anyone noticing. How could involved grandparents miss the fact that their daughter had had a break with reality?

    Postpartum depression doesn't get worse and become postpartum psychosis, and postpartum psychosis doesn't suddenly develop when a child is almost ready for preschool. Actually, I believe most cases develop in the first six weeks!

    I could believe that Casey is crazy, in some way. Something MUST be deeply broken in her brain, if she did what most people believe she did. It's possible that she also suffered from postpartum depression or anxiety on top of that, as a preexisting mental illness would be a risk factor. (Although I'm with Katherine, that if there were any evidence of that, at all, her attorney would surely have used it.) But you don't blame murder on "hormones."

    Misinformation like this does such a disservice. How many women who are struggling will be afraid to seek help?

    • Katherine Stone says:

      I love your name, Katherine (NOT Stone). Made me laugh!

      Casey may be unwell or not. We would have no way of knowing, though I think all of us would like to think she has an illness because that would perhaps make it easier for all of us to understand her unusual behavior.

      My have lines of your comment: “Misinformation like this does such a disservice. How many women who are struggling will be afraid to seek help?” EXACTLY.

    • Although I can't say for certain (because I've never met her) I think it's far more likely that Casey Anthony has a personality disorder. Probably Histrionic Personality Disorder, or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Or she's simply a sociopath—someone who is chronically selfish, has no compassion for others, and no remorse for her hurtful actions. From what I have read about her, she has always been this way, even before Caylee was born. I don't think it was a postpartum related illness, though it's probably true that having Caylee exacerbated her feelings of selfishness and desperation.

    • "Postpartum depression doesn’t get worse and become postpartum psychosis, and postpartum psychosis doesn’t suddenly develop when a child is almost ready for preschool. Actually, I believe most cases develop in the first six weeks!

      Exactly!

  5. But postpartum psychosis, if allowed to go unchecked, can lead to the mom's own death or her harming her children. But usually surfaces in the first year as said previously. It would have been noticed somehow previously. The parent/grandparents are grabbing at straws. They all should fade into oblivion.

    • Katherine Stone says:

      Postpartum psychosis CAN lead to harm, but doesn’t necessarily. Plus, postpartum psychosis usually shows up in the early weeks postpartum. You can’t say a mother has postpartum psychosis when her only child is THREE and the event occurs.

  6. I am really, really irritated that her mom said this. There is no such thing as post-partum schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a chronic condition. It's unlikely that post-partum psychosis would be lingering three years later as well. I think her mother may be the delusional one here.

    • Katherine Stone says:

      Thanks for weighing in Kristen. I wish Dr. Phil had responded immediately that there was no such thing. And I have to say I find it hard to believe that if Casey had ever been psychotic for any reason, no one would have noticed.

      I wish Cindy Anthony wouldn't say such things on a whim.

  7. I wish there were "like" buttons for the comments.

    "Misinformation like this does such a disservice. How many women who are struggling will be afraid to seek help?"

    The Casey Anthony trial troubled me deeply for so many reasons. Now, this adds a new element – a possible lasting barrier to women with PPD/PPA to seek help. I'm just so thankful that you are hear educating and advocating for women. Please keep up your amazing work.

  8. As Terri says, they're just plain grabbing at straws now. Thanks, Katherine, for being such a leading advocate to try to break through the misinformation that leads to stigma. We need more public awareness of the facts on perinatal mood disorders, more advocates…that way, when people try to start making up a possible diagnosis (I've never heard of postpartum schizophrenia before) for something as horrible as what happened to poor Caylee, it won't slam the door on moms who are suffering and trying to get help, or trying to share their experiences with others.

  9. This is the type of stuff that really gets me going: blaming poor parenting, horrible parenting, or murder on a "possible postpartum" mom who clearly didn't show the signs of a postpartum mood disorder. She killed her 2 year old, partied, then when caught tried to say it was an accident and blamed anyone and everyone she could. And I'd like to point out moms with true pp psychosis are treated worse in the system and get more time, not the help they need or deserve, than she got.

    • Katherine Stone says:

      It’s my duty, I think, to say Casey was not convicted of killing anyone, despite what we may think. Just had to put that out there.

      I love your point Kerissa, about that fact that moms with true postpartum psychosis are treated terribly by the system and often don’t get the help they need and deserve.

  10. I heard a clip about this interview on the radio, and I started talking back that there was "no such thing as post-partum schizoprenia". Thank you for this. Women should not be ashamed to say that they are struggling with any type of perinatal or antenatal mood disorder.

  11. I’ve been thinking about this one since I first read it yesterday. The thing I wonder about is the reference to seizures. If she did have seizures, that could explain some of the issues. The post-ictal (after seizure) state can produce violent behavior with amnesia. I was “combative” with the nurses and doctors who were trying to save my life following a series of eclamptic seizures. I don’t remember this at all. Of course, seizures are not a postpartum mood disorder issue. I would expect that to be a separate medical issue. On the whole, I think her parents are trying to make excuses for behavior that is hard to excuse. They are grasping at straws. I sympathize to a degree with their plight – it’s not something anyone would want to try to make sense of. I’ve avoided the whole Anthony story because it’s so endlessly sad. Did she have postpartum issues? Maybe. But I don’t think her parents are in a position to diagnose that.

  12. Adele Le Merle says:

    Casey is a selfish self centered piece of Gods unfortunate creations. We as society should not waste any more time entertaining her existenc. The prosecution team were purist in their summation of the findings. The panel of jurors were obviously removed from and lackedi in the understanding of the English language, and therefore set a psychopath free into the mainstream of society condoning that this behaviour is acceptable even when the writing ws on the wall. Eg. Lying to the police on many occasions and knowing that her child was missing for 31 days. What has happened to the moral fibers in our fabric of society? My proof is that the world we live in is not perfect and there is always a recall in a malfunction in any form of machinery or in a batch of food that has being processed, animals that carry infectious diseases are culled, this is done to protect and guard our safety. well in this circumstance humans are a part of this network which means that not all of the human race have a proper chemical balance somewhere in that complex brain (the human machine) we may need to consider a "recall" this is where the jury is required but unfortunately the jurors failed to recognise the malfunction even though there was clarity in the summation and freed a killing machine to kill again. The juror who is a nurse stated "not guilty does not mean you are innocent" what on earth does that mean of course "not guilty" means "innocent." I'm not perfect in my English – my 13 yr old child

  13. Adele Le Merle says:

    Casey is a selfish self centered piece of panel on the wall. Eg. Lying to the police on many occasions and knowing that her child was missing for 31 days. What has happened to the moral fibers in our fabric of society? My proof is that the world we live in is not perfect and there is always a recall in a malfunction in any form of machinery or in a batch of food that has being processed, animals that carry infectious diseases are culled, this is done to protect and guard our safety. well in this circumstance humans are a part of this network which means that not all of the human race have a proper chemical balance somewhere in that complex brain (the human machine) we may need to consider a "recall" this is where the jury is required but unfortunately the jurors failed to recognise the malfunction even though there was clarity in the summation and freed a killing machine to kill again. The juror who is a nurse stated "not guilty does not mean you are innocent" what on earth does that mean of course "not guilty" means "innocent." I'm not perfect in my English – my 13 yr old child