How Much Anxiety is Too Much?
Ask yourself the following questions to help gauge whether your anxiety is reasonable or too much:
- How long have I been experiencing this high level of anxiety?
- How much is it upsetting to me or causing me distress?
- Is it starting to interfere with my daily life?
- Do others in my life think I am too anxious?
- Is my anxiety negatively affecting my relationships?
- Is my anxiety negatively affecting my enjoyment of my baby?
Remember that some anxiety is normal and to be expected
It is also normal for anxiety levels to wax and wane over your life. This is true during the postpartum period as well. Some days or even weeks you may feel more anxious than others. Then something shifts and you feel better again. For example, your baby slowly loses weight for a week and you worry. You worry about ever getting a good night's sleep again. You worry whether your relationship with your husband or partner will ever get back on track. Then things slowly get better (of you get a good night's sleep!) and you feel more energetic and calm. Hey, maybe I can handle this, you think to yourself. Then your baby gets the flu and you worry again. This is the roller-coaster ride of early motherhood.
For some, normal levels of anxiety can escalate and turn into an anxiety disorder.
An anxiety disorder is when the anxiety is severe enough to interfere with your daily life at home and/or at work over a longer period of time. It feels like incapacitating fear.
For example, some women (like Salima) begin to feel terrified of even leaving the house. Some may begin to experience frequent panic attacks and avoid certain places. Others (like Jennifer) may spend hours obsessively washing or checking things, or feel completely exhausted by constant worries. Or some (like Ellen) have a very frightening experience during their baby’s birth and experience nightmares and frequent flashbacks, and just don’t feel like themselves.
An untreated anxiety disorder can often put a person at increased risk for future problems with anxiety and depression. If you think your anxiety is significantly interfering with your life, discuss it with your maternity care provider or family doctor.