Shedding Light on Stay-At-Home Mom Depression

Stay-at-home mom (SAHM) depression isn’t an official diagnosis within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM5) but includes depressive symptoms that can arise when individuals choose to care for their children at home. This caregiving role can bring emotional challenges as stay-at-home parents contend with stress and isolation, primarily interacting with their children and often lacking social connections with other adults. Additionally, the responsibilities of managing the entire household and childcare duties can lead to overwhelming feelings and potential burnout. This article will explore symptoms, causes, and treatments for this common issue.

Symptoms of Stay-at-Home Mom Depression

Stay-at-home moms often face unique emotional challenges that can affect their mental well-being. While the joys of motherhood are undeniable, the responsibilities and isolation that come with being a full-time caregiver can sometimes lead to feelings of sadness, despair, and other maternal mental health conditions.

It is important to recognize the symptoms of depression so that mothers can get the support and intervention they need. Symptoms of stay-at-home mom depression compared to other depressive disorders are pretty much the same, such as [2, 7]:

  • Persistent Feelings of Sadness: Feeling consistently sad, down, or overwhelmed, even when there doesn’t appear to be a clear reason.
  • Anxiety and Worry: Experiencing excessive worry, restlessness, or a sense of unease, often about the well-being of your children or your ability to care for them.
  • Feelings of Hopelessness: A pervasive sense of hopelessness about the future or the belief that things will never improve.
  • Guilt and Worthlessness: Feeling guilty about not being a “perfect” mother or experiencing a profound sense of worthlessness.
  • Irritability: Frequent irritability, frustration, or short temper, even in situations that typically wouldn’t bother you.
  • Loss of Interest: Losing interest in activities or hobbies that you once enjoyed or found fulfilling.
  • Fatigue: Suffering from a significant loss of energy, often accompanied by feelings of exhaustion.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Struggling with concentration, decision-making, and memory, which can affect your ability to perform daily tasks.
  • Appetite Changes: Significant changes in appetite can lead to overeating or a loss of appetite.
  • Physical Symptoms: Experiencing persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches or unexplained aches and pains, that do not improve with treatment.
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns: Experiencing sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping excessively.
  • Suicidal Thoughts: Having thoughts of suicide or making suicide attempts. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek immediate help from a mental health professional or a crisis helpline. [2, 7]:

It’s important to remember that depression can manifest differently in each individual, and not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. Furthermore, stay-at-home mom depression can occur anytime during motherhood and is not solely attributed to postpartum depression.

What Causes Stay-at-Home Mom Depression?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10% of women in the U.S. reported symptoms of depression [2]. Stay-at-home mothers, in particular, face unique challenges that can contribute to their susceptibility to depression and other mental disorders. Some key causes include:

  • Stress: Being a full-time stay-at-home mom involves juggling childcare, housework, errands, and appointments, often with little support. This constant juggling can lead to chronic stress, a known contributor to depression [9].
  • Social Isolation: Staying at home limits opportunities for socialization outside the family environment, contributing to feelings of loneliness and depressive symptoms [3].
  • Reduced Social Networks: Stay-at-home mothers may experience reduced opportunities for social interaction compared to those who work, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness [3].
  • Financial Dependence: Reliance on a spouse or partner for financial support can create stress and anxiety, mainly if there are concerns about financial stability or autonomy [3].
  • Reduced Self-Esteem: Societal perceptions of paid work versus unpaid work within the home can affect stay-at-home mothers’ self-esteem and self-worth, potentially impacting their mental well-being [3].
  • Chronic Sleep Deprivation: Caring for young children often involves disrupted sleep patterns, negatively impacting mood and mental health. Poor sleep quality is known to be associated with depression [7].

Stay-at-home mom depression can occur during the early postpartum period or at any point during motherhood. That being said, postpartum depression and stay-at-home mom depression share similar symptoms, however, they are distinguished by their onset periods. Postpartum depression usually starts within 1 to 3 weeks of having a baby while stay-at-home mom depression can occur at any time throughout motherhood.

Depression Treatments

Depression can be particularly challenging for stay-at-home moms, but there are various treatment options, including telehealth and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which offer accessible and effective solutions:

Telehealth and Online Psychiatry:

Telehealth, including online psychiatry, has emerged as a valuable resource for enhancing mental health treatment accessibility, particularly for individuals in their homes [1]. This remote approach to mental healthcare leverages videoconferencing technology to provide therapy, evaluations, and medication management [1]. It presents several advantages:

  • Reduced Barriers: Online psychiatry reduces the financial and time burdens related to traveling to physical appointments, making it particularly beneficial for those residing in remote or rural areas [1].
  • Accessibility for Stay-at-Home Moms: Telehealth can significantly assist stay-at-home parents, including stay-at-home moms, in accessing much-needed mental health support while managing their responsibilities [1].
  • Human Connection During Isolation: The convenience of telehealth helps individuals maintain crucial human connections during times of social distancing and lockdowns, ultimately improving overall mental well-being and patient satisfaction [1].

Online psychiatry can provide stay-at-home moms with a lifeline to professional mental health care, addressing the challenges of isolation and time constraints.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS):

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive medical procedure that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate targeted areas of the brain [4]. It is particularly relevant as an alternative treatment for stay-at-home moms who may have exhausted traditional treatments. Here’s a closer look at TMS:

  • Focused Brain Stimulation: TMS focuses on a specific part of the brain known as the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [4]. During treatment, magnetic pulses are delivered to this area at a particular rhythm, usually daily for a few weeks [4]. This targeted approach can lead to improvements in mood and a reduction of depressive symptoms [4].
  • Treatment for Treatment-Resistant Depression: TMS is especially valuable for individuals with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) [9]. Studies consistently show impressive response rates, often falling between 50% and 55%, with remission rates ranging from 30% to 35% among individuals suffering from major depression [8].
  • Fewer Side Effects: One notable advantage of TMS is its ability to provide sustained relief from mood symptoms while being associated with fewer side effects compared to some traditional antidepressant medications [8]. Commonly reported side effects include temporary headaches, tingling sensations on the scalp and face, and occasional lacrimation on the same side as the treatment [8].

TMS offers a promising avenue for treating stay-at-home moms experiencing depression, particularly those who have not found relief with conventional treatments. It’s a safe and effective technique that can improve well-being and quality of life.

Self-Help and Holistic Methods

When taking care of their kids, most parents neglect their own needs and fall into a pattern of not getting enough sleep and overworking themselves. This common predicament is one of the root causes of SAHM depression. Incorporating self-care practices, such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and relaxation techniques, can help manage depression symptoms [6]. Working with a licensed therapist and engaging in talk therapy where the main goal is to develop new coping skills can promote overall wellness and reinforce self-care practices. Also, there are many support groups available that can be a great resource for stay-at-home moms struggling with depression, stress, and other mental health issues.

Medications

When taking on the role of a stay-at-home parent, many moms who struggle with depression and mental illness find it hard to keep up with everyday life. Psychiatric medications are often the first line of treatment for many individuals who experience depression and can have many benefits. Perhaps the most common medications, antidepressants, should be prescribed by qualified healthcare providers and can help manage depression symptoms by balancing neurotransmitter levels in the brain [5].

Help and Hope for the Stay at Home Mom

Stay-at-home mom depression is a complex condition that many mothers face. Recognizing the signs of depression is the first step toward seeking help and support. From telehealth and online psychiatry to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), accessible and effective treatments are available to improve mental health and overall well-being. Additionally, incorporating self-care practices and, if necessary, medication can be valuable tools in managing depression.

If you or someone you know is struggling with stay-at-home mom depression, it’s crucial to seek help. Remember, depression is treatable; you deserve the support and care to regain your well-being.

Take the first step toward a brighter tomorrow. Contact Neuro Wellness Spa today to learn more about our innovative depression treatments and let us be your partner in your journey to improved mental health. You don’t have to face stay-at-home mom depression alone. Reach out; together, we can work towards a healthier and happier future.

References:

  1. Bulkes, N. Z., Davis, K., Kay, B., & Riemann, B. C. (2022). Comparing efficacy of telehealth to in-person mental health care in intensive-treatment-seeking adults. Journal of psychiatric research, 145, 347–352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.11.003
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2023, May 22). Symptoms of Depression Among Women. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductive-health/depression/
  3. Frech, A., & Damaske, S. (2012). The relationships between mothers’ work pathways and physical and mental health. Journal of health and social behavior, 53(4), 396–412. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146512453929
  4. Mann SK, Malhi NK. Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. [Updated 2023 Mar 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK568715/
  5. National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.). What is depression? https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression
  6. National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.). Caring for Your Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health
  7. O’Leary, K., Bylsma, L. M., & Rottenberg, J. (2017). Why might poor sleep quality lead to depression? A role for emotion regulation. Cognition & emotion, 31(8), 1698–1706. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2016.1247035
  8. Rizvi, S., & Khan, A. M. (2019). Use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Depression. Cureus, 11(5), e4736. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.4736
  9. Tafet, G. E., & Nemeroff, C. B. (2016). The Links Between Stress and Depression: Psychoneuroendocrinological, Genetic, and Environmental Interactions. The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 28(2), 77–88. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.neuropsych.15030053
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