I Get Feelings Something Bad Will Happen to My Children

Reader’s Question

I get these “feelings” that something bad is going to happen to my children. I went through years of infertility treatments and was told that I may never have children. I did, by some miracle, become pregnant and had my daughter. I was shocked when I discovered I was pregnant again with my son a year and 1/2 after my daughter was born.

I can’t explain these feelings, I get them at times, and at certain times they are worse. I am so scared and worry constantly about losing my children. My dad passed away last August which has devastated me. I have been in grief counseling but this fear that something will happen to my children, in particular my youngest, is causing me to lose sleep, not eat, and I worry all the time.

Is this a sign of depression or anxiety disorder?

Psychologist’s Reply

Yes, this is a sign of depression and anxiety…as are your symptoms of worry all the time, loss of appetite, and inability to sleep. It is very likely that the loss of your father, which you described as devastating, is still with you, only taking a different form. In the loss of a loved family member, we often experience two episodes of depression. The first episode occurs at the time of the loss and is obvious to those around us — that initial grief and bereavement stage. During that time, we receive additional support from family and friends. After several months, our life seems to return to a type of normal although a moderate bereavement remains. Typically within 9-12 months after the death, another wave of depression surfaces. That depression may add any issues we are experiencing at the time to the number of obsessive thoughts and worry.

All depression has obsessive thoughts, and a fear of loss/harm related to your children is a common thought, likely linked to the loss of your father. You fear something bad will happen to your children and you will experience the devastating grief and depression you experienced with the loss of your father. When this happens, the Emotional Memory (see article on this website) associated with your father’s death is triggered by concern for your children. You begin to relive and reexperience your father’s loss although the children are the subject.

The fact that appetite, sleep, and other physical functions are disrupted tells us your depression is more than feeling sad. This is a clinical depression and is typically treated with a combination of antidepressant medication and counseling/therapy. I would recommend consulting with your physician or OB/GYN regarding the depression. If your youngest child is less than 18 months old, you may have added a post-partum depression to the normal bereavement associated with your father’s passing.

I’d read the information about depression on this website. Your situation is very treatable. While you’ll always be a careful and cautious mother, a level of worry that changes your brain chemistry is related to depression and not being a cautious mother.

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