Postpartum Depression vs Psychosis

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Having a baby is one of the most meaningful experiences a woman can have in her lifetime. For some, it also leads to a scary mental health disorder that affects their early days of motherhood. Some women develop postpartum depression. Others actually have what’s called postpartum psychosis. What is the difference between postpartum depression vs psychosis? Montare Behavioral Health of Tucson explores these two different conditions and how they affect women. We also provide a compassionate treatment plan to help new moms overcome these challenging disorders and move comfortably into their relationships with their new family members.

Differences Between Postpartum Psychosis vs Depression 

When considering the difference between postpartum depression vs psychosis, it’s important to understand that while both disorders have similarities, they are definitely not the same thing. Developing postpartum depression happens fairly commonly, while postpartum psychosis is quite rare. In fact, only about 0.1 percent of new mothers develop postpartum psychosis. For those women who have bipolar disorder, that number increases to approximately 30 percent.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is much more serious than postpartum depression and should be treated as a mental health emergency. A woman with postpartum psychosis loses her sense of reality and may be at risk of harming her baby or herself. The earlier she receives treatment, the better the odds of her recovering from it. 

Two main symptoms occur with postpartum psychosis. The first is hallucinations that cause a person to see, hear, and even feel things that are not actually happening. The second main symptom is having delusions. The individual holds a belief that, while not true, she believes is unshakable. Examples include feelings of paranoia or that she never actually gave birth and the child is not hers. Other symptoms can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Disorganized behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Depersonalization
  • Thoughts of harming the baby or self-harm


Certain factors can contribute to a person developing postpartum psychosis. This includes having a history of mental illness, most commonly bipolar disorder. Having a family history of the condition increases the odds a woman will develop it. Extreme sleep deprivation that comes with being a new mother can also be a causal factor. Lastly, postpartum psychosis is more common with the birth of a first child. However, if a woman experiences it once, her odds of having it again with more children greatly increase.

Postpartum Depression 

While anyone can develop postpartum depression, certain things can factor into increasing the chances a woman will have it. This includes if she has a family history of other relatives who have had it, or if she is genetically predisposed to developing it. Another predictor is whether the woman has a history of having certain mental health disorders. If she had or currently has an anxiety disorder or depression, the chances of her developing postpartum depression increase 30-35%. As well, if a mother had postpartum depression before, she has an increased chance of having it with another child

Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Constant feelings of depression and hopelessness
  • Crying
  • Irritability 
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Feeling shame or inadequate as a mother
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Thoughts of harming the baby
  • Suicidal thoughts

Woman needing treatment for postpartum depression and psychosis How Long Do Postpartum Depression & Psychosis Last? 

Postpartum depression can last for months or longer if left untreated. With proper mental health treatment, the symptoms may disappear after a few weeks or months.  Postpartum psychosis treatment is almost always involuntary because the individual does not realize she has it. However, once treatment begins, the woman can fully recover within a few weeks. With both conditions, the amount of time they last depends on a few things. These include her symptoms, the type of treatment she receives, and how quickly she responds to it. 

Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression vs Psychosis 

Postpartum depression can be treated on an outpatient or residential basis. The woman will typically take part in talk therapy sessions. Cognitive-behavioral therapy often proves helpful in reducing symptoms.  Group therapy can also help because it helps women understand they are not alone and can benefit from peer support. The use of antidepressants is also common to reduce symptoms.

Postpartum psychosis requires residential or inpatient treatment due to the severity of the symptoms. The main approach includes the use of medications that can provide relief from symptoms. Choices include lithium, antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can also help bring a woman out of postpartum psychosis.

Contact Our Mental Health Treatment Facility in Tucson, AZ

Do you fear you have developed a mental health disorder related to having a baby but aren’t sure if you have postpartum depression vs psychosis? 

Montare Behavioral Health of Tucson understands how to give an exact diagnosis and provide highly effective treatment for both disorders. Our friendly staff of trained mental health experts knows how to help women overcome their symptoms through a combination of therapy and medications. We lead women out of the darkness of postpartum illnesses so they can feel like their old selves again and focus on their families.

Visit our admissions page today and let us talk to you about a diagnosis and treatment plan. You can get the help you deserve starting now.