Recognizing and Treating Post Adoption Depression Syndrome
Adoption is an emotional process that is both exhausting and exhilarating. When the big moment finally arrives, adoptive parents have usually experienced many highs and lows, and have waited a long time for a child to be placed in their arms. Newly adoptive parents may feel confused and guilt-ridden. Instead of being grateful and overjoyed, they feel ambivalent, depressed, resentful or angry, and may even be questioning their decision to adopt. There is a sense that they “should” feel happy and content now that they finally have what they have wanted and worked towards all this time. When the post adoption blues hit, it is often unexpected and always unwelcome.
Although it is not a formally recognized disorder, Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) is a term coined by June Bond in 1995 to describe the stress, anxiety and depression that many parents experience following adoption. Much like Post-Partum Depression, PADS usually affects adoptive mothers, with some estimates suggesting that close to 65% of adoptive mothers experience it at some point after bringing a child home. Post Adoption Depression Syndrome can be attributed to a number of different factors, not the least of which is the stress inherent in parenting. This is especially true when there are attachment/bonding challenges and the needs of the child are more significant than expected. Some newly adoptive parents report that bringing a child home reignites feelings of grief, loss and unresolved infertility issues, all of which can contribute to depression. PADS has also been likened to the let down that can occur after accomplishing a big goal or completing other major life milestones, like getting married or graduating from college.
Adoptive parents need to know and understand that PADS is a normal and even predictable crisis, and it does not reflect on an adoptive parent’s desire, willingness or ability to parent. Knowledge, preparation and support are all critical to surviving and moving past PADS.
Signs you might be experiencing PADS:
· Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities you used to enjoy
· Difficulty with concentrating or making decisions
· Fatigue or loss of energy
· Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
· Significant weight change
· Excessive guilt
· Feelings of powerlessness
· Feelings of worthlessness
· Sense of hopelessness
· Suicidal thoughts or ideation
How to handle it:
- Take care of yourself – Self Care is incredibly important! Find some down time to engage in activities you enjoy. Make sure to eat right, exercise, rest, and get enough sleep.
- Remember you are not alone – Connect with other adoptive parents who are experiencing similar feelings and challenges.
- Give yourself time to bond – Bonding and attachment can be a slow process, so be patient.
- Ask for support and seek help – Do not be ashamed or afraid to ask friends and family members for help. For your benefit and the benefit of your child and family, seek professional assistance if needed.
- Keep in mind that the first several months after an adoptive placement are a transitional time for everyone in the family. Take it one day at a time, enjoy the positive moments, and be kind to yourself.
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