When distinguishing postpartum depression vs. postpartum psychosis, it’s important to know that they are both mental health conditions that affect some women after giving birth. Postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum psychosis (PPP) both involve mood changes, but they have different symptoms and require different treatments to manage the effects in the postpartum period.
The good news is both are highly treatable with online therapy and possibly medication when addressed early on. It’s essential to be aware of the differences between PPD and PPP so you can seek the right type of help as soon as possible.
Continue reading to learn more about postpartum psychosis vs. depression, including what symptoms to look out for and how to treat each condition.
What is the Difference Between Postpartum Depression & Psychosis?
Postpartum depression vs. psychosis are distinct mental health conditions that can affect mothers in the postpartum period.
- Postpartum depression’s hallmark symptom is a prolonged sadness or emptiness, potentially coupled with difficulty sleeping, weariness, altered appetite, low self-esteem, anxiousness, and irritability. In addition, women with PPD often feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with their new motherhood responsibilities. PPD symptoms will last for longer than 2 weeks and can persist for up to a year after childbirth if left untreated.
- In contrast, postpartum psychosis is much more severe and typically occurs within the first week or 2 after delivery. Symptoms include delusions or false beliefs, hallucinations, manic behavior such as excessive energy or talking rapidly, and more. PPP requires immediate medical attention, as it can be detrimental to the new mother and newborn if not addressed promptly.
It’s important to note that most women will fully recover from either condition with adequate and proper treatment.
“The period with a newborn can be overwhelming. While the “baby blues” are common, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are more serious concerns. These conditions have nothing to do with how much you love your child, and remember you can get support and recover from each of these conditions.”– Talkspace therapist Jill Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH
What is postpartum depression?
PPD is a serious form of clinical depression that research suggests might affect up to an estimated 20% of new mothers after childbirth. It’s the most common childbirth complication and can cause extreme psychological distress, including despair, apprehension, and exhaustion.
PPD typically begins within the first 4 weeks after giving birth and can last for months or even years if left untreated. While it’s generally women who experience PPD, studies show that men can also be affected.
Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, listlessness, insomnia, mental fog, irritability, and appetite fluctuations are symptoms of PPD. Some women may also experience physical symptoms like headaches or digestive issues. Many women with PPD feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities as a new mother. As a result, they may struggle to bond with their new baby due to a lack of motivation or feeling emotionally disconnected.
If you think you may be showing signs, take our postpartum depression test to learn more about your symptoms. It’s also highly recommended that you connect with a doctor or therapist to discuss what you’re experiencing.
Risk factors for PPD can include a prior history of depression, birth issues, being single or unmarried, living alone during childbirth, financial hardship, and inadequate social assistance. According to studies, one of the biggest risk factors for developing PPD is being depressed while you’re pregnant.
What is postpartum psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental health condition that can occur after giving birth. Rarer than PPD, research shows that PPP affects an estimated 1 – 2 women out of every 1,000.
Postpartum psychosis can manifest as extreme mood swings, confusion, disorientation, delusions, and hallucinations. PPD usually develops within the first couple weeks after delivery, but it can appear within the first year of your baby’s life.
The most common symptom of postpartum psychosis is an intense feeling of depression that might be accompanied by mania or hypomania (elevated mood). Other indications can be drastic changes in sleep habits (oversleeping or not getting enough rest), having problems focusing, experiencing racing intrusive thoughts, being overly excited, and fidgeting.
In extreme cases, suicidal thoughts and behavior may accompany delusions or hallucinations like auditory and visual distortions, which can be very dangerous.
Risk factors that might increase the likelihood of postpartum psychosis can include:
- Having bipolar disorder or depression
- Having prior episodes of baby blues
- Being younger than 25 years old
- Delivering multiple infants simultaneously
- Going through complications in pregnancy, such as preeclampsia
- Experiencing stressors before delivery, like financial issues or relationship difficulties
- Family history of mental health conditions
Can PPD Turn into Psychosis?
A common question surrounding postpartum psychosis vs. depression is whether the milder version, postpartum depression, can ever turn into psychosis. In short, the answer is no. PPD will not turn into psychosis. That said, note that they can co-occur.
Most often, PPD resolves on its own, but it can last up to a year if left untreated. Postpartum psychosis typically requires medication and hospitalization to stabilize a mother’s mental state and ensure the safety of both mother and child until recovery begins.
“It’s important to remember that postpartum depression cannot turn into postpartum psychosis, but both can occur simultaneously. Each of these conditions can be treated, and it is crucial to reach out to your healthcare provider and let them know what’s going on so you can get proper support and care. You do not have to struggle alone.”– Talkspace therapist Jill Daino, LCSW-R, BC-TMH
Treating Postpartum Psychosis vs. Postpartum Depression
Treatment for postpartum psychosis typically involves hospitalization with medications such as antipsychotics or mood stabilizer medication, supportive therapy from family members, and healthcare professionals specializing in maternal mental health issues.
Find Help for Postpartum Depression with Talkspace
Whether you’re experiencing postpartum depression vs. psychosis, seeking professional help is essential to ensure successful management. Talkspace is an online therapy platform designed to help women struggling with postpartum depression or any other condition find relief in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
Licensed Talkspace professionals offer women tailored attention using evidence-based methods like:
- Online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Online dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Online psychodynamic therapy
Take the first step towards understanding postpartum depression and psychosis with our online therapy services. Our experienced professionals can offer the support, resources, and guidance you need to help you manage your mental health condition and journey as a mother.
- Werner E, Miller M, Osborne LM, Kuzava S, Monk C. Preventing postpartum depression: Review and recommendations. Archives of Women’s Mental Health. 2014;18(1):41-60. doi:10.1007/s00737-014-0475-y. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4308451/. Accessed March 24, 2023.
- Kim P, Swain JE. Sad dads: paternal postpartum depression. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007;4(2):35-47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922346/. Accessed March 24, 2023.
- Mighton CE, Inglis AJ, Carrion PB, et al. Perinatal psychosis in mothers with a history of major depressive disorder. Archives of Women’s Mental Health. 2015;19(2):253-258. doi:10.1007/s00737-015-0561-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4739833/. Accessed March 24, 2023.
- Planning Pregnancy Guide for Women at High Risk of Postpartum Psychosis. Action on Postpartum Psychosis. https://www.app-network.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Planning-Pregnancy-Guide-for-Women-at-High-Risk-of-PP.pdf. Accessed March 24, 2023.