Hidden Symptoms of Anxiety in Parenthood | Columbus Moms Network

In this post, Julianne Peters (LPCC) will discuss common symptoms of anxiety in parenthood which may be mislabeled. Julianne believes awareness of these symptoms is the first step toward feeling in control of your own life!

Let’s begin..

Whether you are a new parent or a seasoned parent, it’s likely you’ve heard stories of postpartum depression but anxiety on the other hand, seems to be something that comes with the territory of parenthood. There has been an incorrect narrative surrounding anxiety which tells us this emotional discomfort should be endured. Anxiety is something all parents experience, but are you tolerating anxiety, hoping it will go away? The truth is, there are many ways to decrease your levels of anxiety – you just need to know how to identify the symptoms.

Postpartum anxiety or anxiety associated with parenthood seems to be something many people can’t accurately label. Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly known symptoms of anxiety and then discuss five symptoms you may not have on your radar!

Commonly known symptoms and signs of anxiety in parenthood:

Increased worry about the future
“what if” thoughts
Difficulty “turning off” your brain
Muscle tension
Difficulty falling asleep

Anxiety is sneaky and can present in ways that can be explained away by other factors in your life. This is why it’s so important to know how your individual anxiety shows up.

Here are ways anxiety may show up in parenthood that you may not label as anxiety:

#1 Feeling “off” leading up to kid’s bedtime. Bedtime can be challenging. You may anticipate a power struggle or perhaps have been looking forward to time for yourself all day and don’t have the patience to bathe, brush teeth, read, sing, and tuck.

Q. Do you experience nausea, headaches, muscle tension, feelings of dread, or irritability before bedtime? These may be symptoms of underlying anxiety.

#2 Parents avoiding sleep. This can be common during the newborn or infancy stage. Maybe the generalized fear that “they might need something” strikes. Or perhaps you’re fearful you won’t wake up to their cry and they will be suffering. You could be worried about what could happen while you are asleep.

Q. Do you fear your lack of control over your child’s well-being while you are both sleeping? All of these explanations can be signs of anxiety.

#3 Irritability/ Anger. Do you find yourself saying “why am I snapping at my family?” or “I feel so annoyed by everything!”. For some people, anger is an easier emotion to admit and can be a way to avoid vulnerability. Since anxiety can make you feel on edge or tense, this can make you less tolerant of irritants.

#4 Restlessness. Do you have trouble sitting still, fidget, pace, or feel “on edge”? Anxiety triggers the fight or flight response in our body which drives us to act. Our fight or flight was developed to keep us safe and vigilant to danger. With anxiety disorders, usually there is not an actual threat but our internal alarm system is signaling loudly. The fight or flight response is not a conscious choice, so you may be unaware that anxiety is driving this feeling or behavior.

#5 Checking behaviors. Being totally responsible for another human being is daunting. Sometimes this pressure can lead to the development of some compulsive behaviors.

Q. Do you find yourself repeatedly checking if your child is breathing? Making sure they are in the right sleep position? Checking several times in the rearview mirror to make sure their car seat is buckled right? These can be traits of anxiety related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

The worry related to raising children is something every parent has experienced to some degree. The emotion of anxiety itself is not the focus here. The frequency, duration, and intensity of these symptoms is most important. Think about how these symptoms may be impacting your life.

Are your symptoms making it hard for you to…

enjoy things in life?
be present?
maintain relationships or interactions with friends/family/partner?
Be the type of parent you want to be?
Get tasks done at home or at work?

Before we can address our anxiety, we need to be aware of our symptoms. Therapy is a great outlet to begin to create this awareness and learn how to change our response to anxiety. One of the biggest factors that keep parents from therapy is the belief that “my symptoms are not bad enough” and “other people have it worse”. Your emotions or experiences do not have to be compared to anyone else.

There’s an ebb and flow to parenthood that lulls us into a brief sense of security, only to have the hammer fall at the next growth spurt. When is a “good time” to take care of yourself? All too often, parents ignore their own needs, leading to an avoidable breaking point (at the most incredibly inconvenient time).

You do not have to wait to be in an emotional crisis to begin therapy! Let’s begin taking small steps to be preventative toward our mental health and set the best examples for our children.

Julianne Peters is here to help pregnant people and parents overcome symptoms of anxiety and depression so they can enjoy parenthood. Feel free to reach out to Julianne at https://www.bluelemoncounseling.com to get scheduled and work toward change together!

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