Hope For Moms With Postpartum OCD & Intrusive Thoughts

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To my postpartum OCD mamas,

I know what you’re going through. I have been pounded, nearly decimated, by the intrusive thoughts of postpartum OCD. Chased into a corner by them. Beaten into submission by them. It’s hard to think of anything more awful than one’s brain thinking thoughts that the owner of that brain does NOT WANT. Ugly, awful thoughts. But that’s what happens, isn’t it?  All those “what if” thoughts that keep popping into your consciousness, freezing you in your tracks and simultaneously breaking your heart.

There were a couple of stories on OCD today that I wanted to share with you. The first was from Psych Central, and is about uncertainty.  A tidbit:  ”The possibility of causing harm to others is not an uncommon obsession for those with OCD.”  The author then writes about our need to check and make sure others are okay and that we haven’t caused or won’t cause or can’t cause harm. The story may help you better understand why you think and behave the way you do during postpartum OCD.

The second story was from ABC News, and was about celebrities who have OCD like moms Charlize Theron, Jessica Alba and Julianne Moore. One quote: “For parents with OCD, having children can actually make symptoms worse. OCD symptoms tend to latch on to things that are most important to us, so parents with OCD may have doubts about their abilities or intrusive thoughts about their child’s safety or hurting their child.” Sound familiar?

Please know that you are not alone. I had postpartum OCD. I had intrusive thoughts. I made it. You will too. Really. The thoughts are not you. They are just symptoms of an illness. Remember that.

In the meantime, if you’d like more information, here are some oldies but goodies from the Postpartum Progress archives on postpartum OCD:

Postpartum OCD: Does Having Scary Thoughts Mean You’ll Act On Them?

The Endless What-Ifs of Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum Anxiety & Intrusive Thoughts: One Mom’s Story

A Primer on Intrusive Thoughts

 

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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. Thanks for posting this. I believe the more we talk about it the easier it will be for us that suffer/suffered from this to speak up. Posts like this remind us that we are not alone and can be very reassuring that we are not going "crazy" and that we can gett through it.

  2. I've never experienced these thoughts. I can't even imagine how terrifying they must be. Can't.

  3. thank you so much for helping women everywhere! I spent 5 days in a hospital and a few weeks in therapy before they realized I was suffering from pure O. I will never get that time back but it has helped me to understand, as well as this site, that I am not alone…please continue to educate the public.

  4. Mindfulness is excellent for treating OCD. It helps so much with relabeling your thoughts and making space between you and them. For instance, next time you get an intrusive thought think ‘I am having an anxiety thought about harming my baby’. Or repeat your thought over and over out loud, it makes it ridiculous and shows you are not afraid of your thoughts and this lessens the anxiety

  5. Hi. I just want to know from other mothers, does the guilt go away? Do you get to spend time with your little loves without that wall of fear?

    I have been doing ERP and my biggest problem is guilt, and then the wall that seems to divide me from my loved one. I want to play with her and have fun with her and I do! I don’t stop but at times i can feel on edge and on the lookout for my thoughts. I want so badly just to enjoy her and be happy.

    • Every mom is different, Jocelyn, but I can certainly tell you that it went away for me. It helps to put some time between you and your illness … the longer you have been recovered the easier it gets.
      ~ K

      • Thank you. :) Also is there a way to do ERP where you don’t have to rethink the thoughts? I dont’ see what good this does. I do better just resisting my compulsions around my llittle love, I don’t see why i have to dig up these thoughts and replay them…it makes no sense to me. It just makes me feel like I am going to be torturing myself and ruining my image of her to get “better” and it seems so selfish to think these thoughts on purpose. So disgusting.

        Basically I have done the ERP where i am around her and i don’t check, i don’t say things to myself, I just be. And I’m doing really good! But for some reason he thinks that I should rethink all the bad thoughts on purpose. I don’t like that. AT ALL.

        • As someone who went through postpartum OCD and had intrusive thoughts, I can understand how weird it seems to consider going to a therapy where the therapist would try to make you think them more, or face them. All I wanted to do was get away from them as far as I possible could. But I will tell you I just read some research that indications that exposure-response cognitive behavioral therapy is VERY effective for OCD. I know it doesn’t seem like it makes a lot of sense, but actually what they’re trying to do is help you get used to them and understand they aren’t real to the point where they don’t affect you. And I would argue that it’s definitely not selfish at all to get better. In fact that’s a huge gift to both you and your sweet baby.

          • Thank you :) It’s not that I would do any of the thoughts it’s just that the thoughts are bizarre and graphic. For example if I see something violent or sexual I become afraid that myu loved one is going to appear in my memory of what I saw. They’re just gross. But thank you :)

  6. I think Postpartum OCD or OCD in general when you’re a parent is perfectly natural. Not to say that it’s not a disorder but I’m saying that to give some of you moms and dads out there comfort.

    If you think about it, people with OCD tend to feel overly responsible for everything. When you have a child, they’re you’re responsibility and if you have trouble trusting yourself because of OCD then of course OCD is going to attach yourself to the well-being of your kids. Even if it means turning against you and being critical of yourself, it’s all in the name of loving your kids.

    So if you get these thoughts, take some comfort in the fact that if you didn’t love your kids, you wouldn’t care about these thoughts. Not to say that people who have intrusive thoughts that don’t get OCD don’t care, they do too, but it’s only logical if you’re someone with this condition then of course it would attach itself to the lives you are responsible for taking care of.

    I hope you all find comfort. Much love to you all. I don’t care how graphic or how intense your IT’s are, they are coming from a place of exaggerated responsibility and love and fear for the well-being of your child. Take some comfort in that if you can.

    Namaste!

  7. Hello I’m a mother of three kiddos and I’m suffering ppd ocd. It’s so hard when nobody understands what’s going on. I didn’t know there were so many moms suffering with the same thing.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This is very, very, very normal and not talked about often enough. I have to run to a meeting, so I apologize for the short response. I recommend chatting with a psychiatrist – a low dose of medication as well as some behavioral therapy can work wonders! You are not alone. http://www.postpartumprogress.com/ho…usive-thoughts [...]

  2. […] about shaking my baby or letting her slip in the bath tub (I would like to emphasize here that intrusive thoughts are distinguished from psychosis by a mother’s ability to recognize the tho…) – five months of obsessively folding and lining up burp rags and matching bottle tops to […]