Depression in Mothers

Following disclosure, the continuous onslaught of emotional responses can leave mothers with reduced defenses, weakened immune system, exhausted, conflicted, and in a state of continuous stress with elevated neurohormonal responses becoming a chronic state. She may or may not have worked through denial and reached a point of acceptance regarding the sexual abuse of  her child. She may want to stay in bed, with the blinds closed, and the blankets over her head. She may want to bury her head in a bottle of wine or whiskey. She may want to escape the pain in any number of ways. She is overwhelmed.

Depression includes feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Following the disclosure of a child's sexual abuse, a mother has clear understanding that she is powerless. She could not prevent this from happening to her daughter. She was helpless and powerless to alter the choices and behaviors of another human being. If she internalizes these emotions, she may become apathetic and stop functioning in normal, healthy ways. She may be unable to go to work, get up and fix breakfast for the children, clean the house, or prepare meals. 

If the depression turns to despair, the mother loses sight of the value of life. She may have thoughts of killing herself. It is important for mothers to get as much support as they can from family, friends, and the community so that depression does not become a chronic state which threatens ability to parent her children and function. 

Per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV-TR, criteria for depression diagnosis includes minimum of five of the following symptoms and result in significant distress or impairment in function over a 2-week period:
  • Depressed mood most of day or every day, feeling sad or empty, tearful; in children, can be irritable mood; 
  • Reduced interest or pleasure in most activities most of day or almost every day; 
  • Weight loss or weight gain (more than 5%); decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day;
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day;
  • Restlessness and agitation or slowed thoughts, feelings, behaviors nearly every day; 
  • Tiredness and lack of energy nearly every day; 
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day;
  • Reduced ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness nearly every day; 
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts or suicidal attempt or plan.      


Social Media