Anxiety, Intrusive Thoughts Haunt Many New Parents
> 3/7/2006 10:41:38 AM

There is a tremendous piece in today's Washington Post that addresses a problem faced by many new parents.  Writer Stacey Colino discusses the trouble that many mothers and fathers face from intrusive thoughts, which can in turn lead to obsessive-compulsive behaviors and worse. 

The occurance of intrusive thoughts in new parents, typically involving some harm or horrible misfortune befalling the newborn, is not uncommon.  In one study cited by the article: "89 percent experienced distressing, intrusive thoughts related to their infants: images of the baby suffocating or being contaminated with germs, or worries about the baby having an accident, being harmed or kidnapped."  But the fact that the situation is common does not make it any less stressful for new parents.  When eveyone you know is telling you how wonderful and magical your new child is, and you know it is true, the intrusion of these types of thoughts can seem pathological and very troubling. 

"People tend to become more distressed by these bad thoughts if they interpret them as meaningful or if they believe they should be able to control their thoughts," says Jonathan Abramowitz, a psychologist and director of the OCD/Anxiety Disorders Program at the Mayo Clinic. "They're the ones that develop problems."

Colino also notes that high levels of media coverage of particularly negative incidents, such as the Andrea Yates case which made headlines in 2001 and has yet to fade nearly 5 years later, lead to increased worry and stronger negative reactions to their own intrusive thoughts.  In reality an overwhelming majority of parents deal with their thoughts and go about their day unfazed. 

The Post story ends with a discussion of why many people suffer in silence.
Many new parents overcome unwelcome thoughts without professional help. But when the obsessive thoughts or compulsions interfere with a parent's ability to function or bond with the baby, or if they cause considerable anxiety and distress, it's time to seek help, experts say.

It is shame, Colino says, that prevents many new parents from getting help.  As with other mental disorders, the stigma attached to not only the disease, but the treatment as well, stops those who could be treated before they can seek help.  Intrusive thoughts are not uncommon among new parents, and if they are happening to you or someone you know, there is no reason to struggle in silence.  Bonding with a new born is an incredibly important part of being a parent, and if something is standing in the way of that, then it needs to be treated.  As one doctor mentions in the article, there is a big fear that if a parent deals with there thoughts alone, the experience might dissuade them from having other children.  Don't allow that to happen.


My comment / problem is related to the above yet is somewhat different in that my boyfriend has shocked me this week in telling me he is too fearful to have children (which i want and need) as he believes that an anxiety related to them will overtake his life and consequently ruin theirs. He has suffered with O.C.D. particularly intrusive thoughts related to actual bad events having happened to myself. He is much recovered now but still has many compulsive behaviours yet functions very successfully. I have asked him to come to some sort of councilling with me which he said he will but i would like to know what there is available and how it operates and what hope there is based on it that he will feel able to have children for his own sake and ours. I do not want this illness to prevent a next generation as well as having affected his life so much already.
Posted by: mandy 3/24/2006 11:17:30 AM

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