Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for post-partum OCD: The transition to parenthood is difficult
When you have OCD, the transition to parenthood isn’t always easy. It can be particularly difficult when you suffer from post-partum OCD, which involves having obsessive fears about harming your baby because of an overwhelming sense of responsibility and duty toward your child. Fortunately, there are effective treatment options available, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), that can help you heal from your OCD symptoms and prepare for the challenges of being a parent.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder, can be defined as an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent obsessions (unwanted thoughts) and compulsions (actions that one feels compelled to do). OCD typically manifests in early adulthood with many people having their first episode by the time they are 20 years old. It has been estimated that up to 1% of the population will experience a chronic form of the disorder over their lifetime.
OCD can be treated effectively with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Exposure and response prevention therapy is effective for those whose symptoms have not responded well to medication alone. One component of exposure and response prevention therapy involves imaginal exposure, which entails writing out scenarios you fear may happen then reading them aloud until you no longer feel anxious about them. Exposure therapies also help patients identify triggers so that they can avoid things that make them anxious, such as going into public bathrooms or touching anything someone else may have touched before.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder after pregnancy
The transition to parenthood can be fraught with challenges, including feeling out of control or experiencing intrusive thoughts. For some, this can lead to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms, which may include obsessions (unwanted thoughts) and compulsions (repeated behaviors). One treatment that has been shown effective in managing these symptoms is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). ERP involves exposure to the unwanted thoughts without performing a compulsive behavior. If done consistently over time, this helps break the cycle of ritualized thinking and leads to a decrease in obsessive thoughts. In post-partum OCD , sufferers experience both obsessions about harming their baby and compulsions such as counting, reciting prayers, repeating words silently, or doing deep breathing exercises. Treatment usually begins with sessions that teach patients how to identify when they are having an obsession and coping techniques to manage it. Next comes systematic desensitization through ERP; therapists gradually increase exposure time for mental exercises designed to help patients cope with their fears.
My Symptoms During Pregnancy
During my pregnancy, I developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) that revolved around intrusive thoughts about harming my baby. These intrusive thoughts were persistent and uncontrollable, causing me significant distress and anguish. Once I delivered my son, these thoughts worsened and became more extreme. When he was 2 months old, I began having visions of choking him or smothering him with a pillow. After receiving a diagnosis from a psychiatrist at, I was prescribed an anti-depressant called Lexapro. It did not seem to help much so we added the new anti-depressant Seroquel in addition to Lexapro. While there has been some improvement in my symptoms, they are still bothering me everyday. Acceptance and commitment therapy has helped tremendously by teaching me how to live with them rather than fighting against them all the time. Now when I have distressing thoughts, I notice but try not to dwell on them.
What Helped Me Through Pregnancy
I was in a very dark place during my pregnancy. I had a lot of obsessions that consumed me, including thoughts about hurting the baby. I felt like I couldn’t cope with the pregnancy because of these thoughts, but luckily my therapist told me about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This therapy has taught me to accept my thoughts without judgment while still moving forward in life. ACT helped me find peace with my thoughts and not let them hold me back. Now I’m able to have more confidence in myself as a mom, knowing that I can take care of my child even though I have intrusive thoughts sometimes.
Depression, Anxiety and Sleeping Problems After Having A Baby
If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, sleeping problems or any other mental health issue after the birth of your baby, it’s important to know that these feelings are normal. Postpartum OCD is a relatively new diagnosis in the DSM-5, but this doesn’t mean you’re alone. It’s not uncommon for new mothers to struggle with intrusive thoughts that their baby will be harmed or die. These may cause obsessive compulsive rituals like checking on the child over and over again, locking doors repeatedly or even compulsively washing hands. For some women, these obsessions can become so severe that they start to make decisions based on whether they think they’ll help prevent harm from happening. If you are looking for a referral or help with symptoms like these, please contact us at Better Living Center for Behavioral Health.