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Five Thinking Patterns Can Lead to Postpartum Depression

Having a baby is a transition that can set off a rollercoaster of emotions most parents never thought possible. After the baby shower, after the gifts and the good wishes, new parents often struggle to cope with the monumental change in their lives. Often one of the challenges is postpartum depression.

Psychologist Sara Rosenquist, Ph.D., author of "After the Stork: The Couple’s Guide to Preventing and Overcoming Postpartum Depression," shares five common habits of thought that can lead stressed out new mothers and fathers down the path to postpartum depression.

Habits of thought tend to overlap, Rosenquist says. “They tend to work together, one influencing and promoting another, and the result is an increased vulnerability to depression.” She says these common thoughts are:

1. Global Thinking: Overly inclusive, black-and-white thinking that overlooks nuance and context.

2. External Locus of Control: The sense that the source of distress is outside of oneself.

3. Tendency to Internalize Blame: Often feeling responsible for things that are not under one's control and, therefore, feeling blameworthy

4. Personalized Rejection: A tendency to feel hyper-alert to cues indicating possible rejection and to feel that being rejected must be one's own fault

5. Discomfort With Uncertainty: Difficulty getting comfortable with the uncertainties of everyday life; having trouble with self-soothing

If parents see themselves in these descriptions, or if they’ve started to identify some of these habits of thought in themselves, they should see their doctor, Rosenquist says. But also take heart, she says. “It is possible to change automatic and unconscious habits of thought — to deliberately rehearse new ways of interpreting events in order to create positive thoughts and emotions.”

Rosenquist explains that cognitive-behavioral therapy alone is highly successful in treating mild to moderate depressions, and in combination with antidepressant medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective even with the most severe depressions. But when it comes to preventing relapse, Rosenquist says that “the single most important thing you can do is to learn how to stop ruminating and get a good night’s sleep.”

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