Most women expect the time immediately following the birth of their child will be a magical, joyous experience. The reality is that for many new mothers, uncontrollable postpartum anger and depression make things confusing and difficult. Their emotions can threaten to rob them of the opportunity to fully enjoy that precious time with their new baby.
Postpartum depression manifests in many ways, and no two women will experience it exactly the same way. Some key symptoms to be aware of can include anxiety, sadness, feelings of being overwhelmed, and dramatic mood swings. For many women, these mood swings include intense anger and rage, which is now known as postpartum rage.
What is Postpartum Rage?
Many new moms wonder: what is postpartum rage? Simply put, it’s the overwhelming anger a new mother might feel after the birth of a child. Although postpartum anger is related to postpartum anxiety and depression, its hallmark is feelings of severe rage that are accompanied by shame and guilt. After all, aren’t you supposed to be joyful, grateful, and glowing after the birth of a child?
Sometimes you feel anything but, and overcoming the rage you may be feeling seems impossible. If you’ve been feeling more angry than usual and you feel like you can’t control it, the most important thing to know is that you’re not alone.
How Common is Postpartum Rage?
As much as 22 percent of new mothers experience some type of postpartum mood disorder. That’s nearly 1 out of every 4 mothers! Although we don’t have stats specifically for postpartum anger, experts know that rage is an increasingly common symptom of postpartum depression.
One 2018 study by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that rage is a “very common symptom of postpartum depression, and one that has been woefully overlooked.”
Causes of Postpartum Rage
Experts are unsure about what exactly causes postpartum rage. We simply don’t know why one new mother might experience it, while another one won’t. However, we do know that a few things likely increase the odds.
“There are 3 dispositions to postpartum side effects. Anxiety, depression, and rage. There’s something about rage that signifies the earlier stages of grief after giving birth. Giving up the life we once had, feeling overwhelmed, and ultimately, feeling as though the entire responsibility is weighing on us.”Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice PsyD., LPC
Some factors we think may contribute to developing postpartum rage include:
- Personal or family history of depression or anxiety
- Extreme stress in work or personal life
- A difficult pregnancy causing pregnancy anxiety or prenatal depression
- A difficult delivery
- Feeling unheard
- Not getting enough sleep
- Out of balance thyroid hormone levels
- Major emotional events, like the death of a loved one or a divorce
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Feeling judged about their parenting
- Feeling let down or unsupported
Symptoms of Postpartum Rage
While many postpartum rage symptoms can be easy to notice, they’ll typically vary among women. That is, two women can both have postnatal rage but have very different symptoms, triggers, and reactions.
Some common symptoms of postpartum rage can include:
- Finding it difficult to control your temper
- Feeling angry and upset about things that normally wouldn’t bother you
- Screaming and swearing
- Violent thoughts, often directed at a spouse, your baby, or a family member
- Physical expressions of anger, such as punching or throwing things
- Feeling flooded by emotion after an outburst
Risks and Complications
Postpartum rage doesn’t just make you feel out of control and angry. It can also lead to physical harm. Obviously, it’s no fun being this upset all the time. It can be a vicious cycle, where frustration mounts, leading to anger, which makes you more frustrated, which makes you more angry, and the cycle continues.
The rage you might be experiencing has the potential to escalate into violence or even into postpartum psychosis. In addition, mis-managed anger can also contribute to physical health problems like heart disease, type II diabetes, and eating disorders.
“It’s easy for rage to spiral out of control. Hurting someone or something when the rage intensifies makes the individual suffering from the rage and the other people around the sufferer feel all-consumed.”Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice PsyD., LPC
Treatment for Postpartum Rage
The good news is there are several effective treatments for postpartum rage. They can be used alone or, more commonly, as part of a more comprehensive plan that includes multiple approaches.
“Getting professional help is the best option. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) challenges different beliefs, perspectives, and schemes, while dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can challenge emotional instability.”Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice PsyD., LPC
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) that can be effective in helping manage the overwhelming anger and other symptoms of postpartum rage.
During CBT sessions, you can get professional medical advice about your feelings, frustrations, and rage from a licensed and trained therapist. The goal is to find the underlying issues that might be contributing to your anger. Once you’re able to identify unhealthy behavior and thought processes, you can learn how to alter them and begin to make healthier choices.
2. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behavioral therapy takes CBT a step further by helping you learn ways to cope with anger so you can live “in the moment” and reduce stress and anxiety. DBT teaches and enforces the use of mindfulness skills so you can control your emotions better and find other ways to improve relationships.
Certain medications can be used short-term as an effective way to treat postpartum depression and anger. Some medications can be used alone, but most women see better results if it’s used in conjunction with therapy and/or other holistic treatment options.
Medications that might be prescribed can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications work by increasing levels of mood-stabilizing brain chemicals in the body.
In addition to therapy and possibly medication, it’s a good idea to build a support system if you don’t already have one. Remember: you just had a baby, so don’t try to do all of the things you used to.
Enlist friends or family members who can help you out — let them assist with chores, keep you company, or even just take the baby for a few hours to give you a break. Online and peer support groups can also be helpful, especially if you live far away from family or are new to an area.
5. Lifestyle changes
Making simple adjustments to your lifestyle and daily routine might help you deal with postpartum rage.
Getting exercise, doing yoga, journaling, eating healthy, doing meditation, or making sure that you take time for yourself are always important things new moms can do. They become especially essential if you’re trying to navigate the challenging aspects of postpartum rage.
Postpartum rage is a serious, frightening experience to go through. If you’re feeling symptoms of rage, it’s important to get help. You don’t have to suffer alone.
The most important thing to remember is that this is not your fault. You don’t have to feel (and you shouldn’t feel) shame about the fact that you need help. Another essential thing to understand is that these uncontrollable feelings you’re having can be a sign that what you’re going through is a lot. Everything about your life has changed, and sometimes feeling overwhelmed can just be too much.
Talking with your doctor can be a good first step towards improving your mental health. They can connect you with a therapist or other healthcare professional who can help ease or get rid of your postpartum rage altogether. If you’re looking for convenient, accessible therapy, try Talkspace. Our online therapy platform makes therapy simple, which for a new mom, can be huge.