Forty weeks of pregnancy and Now This?
Postpartum and Perinatal OCD

Throughout pregnancy and postpartum many women hear messages from well-meaning friends, family, and strangers regarding how they “should” look and feel.  A pregnant woman “should” glow with happiness, “should” feel joy and excitement, and “should” begin nesting and developing maternal feelings and bonds towards her unborn and newborn child.  For many women, their pregnancy and the postpartum period looks and feels very different.  In fact, approximately 11-20% of all women experience an onset of Depression following the birth of their child.  This statistic does not take into account the many women who experience depression after the loss of a child (miscarriage or stillborn) or the significant number of women who likely do not report depressive symptoms due to shame or fear that they will be considered an unsafe or unfit parent.  In recent years, several celebrities and women in positions of influence have come forward to disclose their own personal struggles with Postpartum Depression and have begun to lift the veil of shame on this disorder.  Even with increased awareness in the community and the health care field, and effective therapy to treat Depression, only 15% of women who experience postpartum depression seek and receive help in the form of therapy or psychiatric care.

An even less-discussed mental health concern with serious effects on both women and their children is Postpartum or Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (pOCD).  Many women experience an increase in stress and anxiety about having and caring for a child.  This increase in stress and feelings of responsibility to a newborn child may elicit upsetting or intrusive thoughts which can lead to an onset of OCD.  Some individuals who have a prior history of OCD may also experience an increase or worsening of their symptoms, although this is not the case for everyone.

Women with pOCD may experience intrusive thoughts regarding the safety of their child, risk of contamination, or fears that they themselves will harm their child.  As a way to manage these distressing thoughts women may engage in compulsions such as checking on the baby repeatedly, washing the baby excessively, repeating prayers, or avoiding certain activities with their child to minimize the risk of harm.  OCD can have a significant impact on the mother’s well-being, as well as her relationship with her partner.  In addition, shame and fear of disclosing these unwanted thoughts and images may further inhibit a woman from seeking treatment for pOCD.  Many women who suffer from pOCD can also develop depression due to the feelings of isolation, fear, sadness, and shame.

The good news is that pOCD can be treated very effectively using similar methods used to treat other types of OCD.  Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is an empirically supported treatment that helps individuals with OCD.  In therapy, women gain a greater understanding of their intrusive thoughts, learn how to accept and not fear the intrusive thoughts, reduce compulsions and confront situations that they have been avoiding.  The CBT therapist helps guide each individual at their own pace through a systematic and personalized approach called Exposure and Response prevention.  CBT is a front-line treatment for OCD, pOCD, Depression, and Postpartum Depression.  For many women who suffer from these conditions, CBT can have a dramatic effect on their lives and ultimately help women develop their sense of selves as a parent in a healthy, connected way that will benefit themselves and their families.

What is a health psychologist?

Health psychology is the study of psychological and behavioral processes in health, illness, and healthcare. The focus of this specialty is in understanding how psychological, behavioral and environmental factors contribute to physical health and illness.

Who could benefit from seeing a health psychologist?

Adults and children who have an acute or chronic illness sometimes experience stress, anxiety, or depression. A health psychologist has unique training to help address and alleviate symptoms that are related to both the physical and psychological problems. For example, a teenager with chronic migraines will likely struggle with academics in school. They might start to avoid social events for fear of having a migraine while with friends. Family may notice irritability and difficulty with sleep. A health psychologist who practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is in the best position to help the adolescent and family understand how migraines are related to negative mood, negative thoughts, and changes in behavior. Treatment can then address all of these factors within the context of cognitive behavioral strategies to manage headaches.

In addition to headaches/migraines, health psychologists have training in working with patients with the following medical problems:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Pain
  • Cigarette Smoking
  • Insomnia
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Lyme Disease
  • Allergies and Asthma
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Transplan
  • Infertility


Did you know that CBT Westport has a Clinical Health Psychologist?

Meet Dr Kelly Tuller.

Consider Cognitive Behavior Therapy for the Treatment of Anxiety

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you certainly aren’t alone. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States affecting over 18% of the population ages 18 and over. While they are highly treatable, only about one-third of those who suffer from anxiety disorders actually receive treatment.

Medication for anxiety may be an appropriate and effective treatment for many patients, but it is not the only effective option for treatment. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, is considered just as effective as medication for certain types of anxiety disorders, and has the most empirical evidence to support its effectiveness than any other psychotherapy. CBT addresses the factors that are maintaining your anxiety and helps you to modify your thoughts and behaviors. Therapy for anxiety can help you better understand how anxiety has impacted your life, how to observe and modify your thoughts, and increase your ability to tolerate anxiety so that you can take action in your life based upon your personal values and goals.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, is an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic attacks and panic disorder, specific phobias, and overall life stress. By using CBT and mindfulness/acceptance-based approaches, our psychologists will work individually with you to develop the skills and a personalized plan to overcome your anxiety problem. Anxiety and worry often lead people to avoid doing things which would help them. You will learn how to notice, modify, and relate differently to anxiety-provoking thoughts and physical sensations, and thereby be able to engage more meaningfully in your life.

If you are suffering with anxiety, panic, or worry, know that there are effective treatments to help you. We specialize in the most researched therapy for anxiety, depression, and related disorders. For more information about cognitive behavior therapy or to find out how we can help you, please get in touch with us today.

Breaking the Stigma: Debunking Common Misconceptions About Anxiety

Everyone experiences bouts of anxiety from time to time. In fact, anxiety is a helpful emotion that provides us with information and helps to keep us safe. But while experiencing some anxiety is normal, those individuals suffering with anxiety disorders may feel anxiety throughout most of their day and it may interfere significantly with their health, sense of self, professional lives, and relationships. Unfortunately, there are various misconceptions about anxiety that impede individuals seeking treatment.

Here are just three of those myths, debunked.

  1. Anxiety isn’t a “real” problem.

If your anxiety is interrupting your life, it is a very real problem. Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than 42 billion dollars a year (almost 1/3 of the country’s total mental health bill). More than half of those costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services and treating symptoms that mimic physical illnesses. Untreated anxiety can also lead to or accompany issues like depression and substance abuse.

  1. It’s not common and affects only adults.

It may surprise you to learn that around 18% of the entire U.S. population — or roughly 40 million adults over the age of 18 — have an anxiety disorder. And anxiety does not only impact adults, but it significantly effects children as well. One in eight children have an anxiety disorder which can lead to poor school performance, avoidance of positive developmental experiences, and later risk for substance abuse issues if left untreated.

  1. Avoidance is one way to effectively manage stress and anxiety.

When we avoid stressful situations our anxiety is reduced in the moment. But this often makes anxiety worse in the long term and reinforces the idea that we can only feel better when we avoid these stressful situations. A highly trained CBT therapist can help you assess patterns of avoidance and identify thoughts and beliefs that contribute to this avoidance. With a collaborative approach a CBT therapist can help you learn ways to face stressful situations and gain a sense of efficacy in your life.

If you think you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder and are seeking therapists in CT, our staff at CBT Westport may be able to help you. For more information, get in touch with us today.

6 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder (And How to Overcome It)

Most of us experience bouts of anxiety every so often. Job interviews, public speaking, first dates, financial issues, or family gatherings can cause our anxiety levels to spike. But everyday anxiety is different from an anxiety disorder. While it may not always be easy to make the distinction, anxiety disorders are actually the most common mental illness in the United States. These disorders affect 40 million adults over age 18, which is roughly 18% of the entire population. A psychologist can help you to determine whether you may have an anxiety disorder and will work with you to develop skills to overcome it. That’s why cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety is incredibly effective; it allows you to recognize and re-pattern your thoughts and behavior so that you are in control of your anxiety, rather than your anxiety controlling you. If you exhibit any of these six signs of anxiety disorders, counseling may be able to help you tremendously.

Continue reading “6 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder (And How to Overcome It)” »