Psychotic symptoms or OCD?


I'm going to try not to babble but I don't really know where to begin .. I'd really love some advise as a therapist has mentioned that my thoughts are possibly psychotic but I thought they were anxiety.

Since being a teenager I've struggled with anxiety / Ocd intrusive thoughts which has come and gone over the years with help from CBT and Ssri .

When I became pregnant I was very highly anxious of losing the baby so started being overly cautious with everything, for example wouldn't put sunscreen on for fear it could harm the baby ! I was terrified of somehow contaminating and harming my baby . When I was 5 months pregnant a very close friend tragically experienced a stillbirth of son at 38 weeks pregnant . As well as being devastated for her this greatly increased my anxiety and I became convinced that I wouldn't be coming home with a baby that was alive . Pregnancy really was hellish for me and I was in a constant state of anxiety . One other thing I have to add is that when pregnant I went for a 3D scan and I really thought the baby on the picture looked odd and scary and became worried that the baby was going to be odd looking / deformed in some way and scared I wouldn't love him or something .

When my son was born alive I have never felt such shock and relief and actually commented to the midwife my surprise he was alive which was probably a little odd .

I really hoped this would be the end of the horrific anxiety but it wasn't . When they handed me my son , rather than being overwhelmed with love and thinking he was perfect as I'd imagined I saw this really odd looking baby that reminded me of a man I used to work with who I didn't like very much . At other times I would look at him and he looked cruel or even felt he reminded me of a certain type of dog . I know this sounds crazy and it makes me want to cry writing this . I remember looking at my partners face and thinking he looked ashamed and my thoughts were " he is upset / disappointed I me for making a baby that looks so odd " . I struggled to look at my son and when I went up to the ante natal ward I felt so depressed and felt no bond when I looked at my son , I just felt detached , confused and terrified .

I tried to push these thoughts out of my head when I came home and there was times where I could see my son for the perfect beautiful little boy he was . But when people came round to visit I felt paranoid that they were thinking he looked odd / ugly / cruel but were too kind to say anything . I did ask my mum a few times if she felt he was odd looking and she would laugh and say how beautiful he was . I felt such utter self hatred for having these thoughts as if I was my own babies worst critic and it made me feel so low I had frequent thoughts of running away or suicide . I found it hard to look at pictures of my son as it would lead to thoughts like " he looks cruel / bad" which then led he to believe I was the worst person in the works for thinking such thoughts .

I also had more general anxiety about his safety , was hardly sleeping at night due to fear of cot death and would pretty much sit up all night watching him to make sure breathing .

I decided I could never tell anyone the horrific thoughts I was having and I just prayed they would go away . However I was utterly devastated and felt so guilty for these thoughts and although I feel I did love abs care for my son I felt I wasn't bonding properly . I decided tense thoughts just meant I was a really shallow terrible mother who was struggling to bond with her baby due to his appearance and just felt self loathing . I was so shocked at the thoughts as never I my life had I thought a baby looked cruel or even ugly how the hell could I be thinking this about my own baby ????!This morphed into contamination fears and I started to excessively wash my hand and my sons clothes etc , oft entering up to 3 hours to sterilise .

Eventually I knew I had to do something as my mood was getting lower and lower so I visited the GP who prescribed fluoxetine . I work in the NHS so couldn't really be referred to the local CBT service as I knew a lot of the staff . The Meds did help somewhat and the horrible thoughts about my sons appearance quite rapidly reduced and I was just left with the contamination fears . I finally felt like u expected to feel as a mother , eg, completely in love with my son and overwhelmed with how perfect and cute he was and wanting to show him off . I then felt terrible guilt for ever thinking anything different .

The contamination fears continued though , to the point of my hand constantly bleeding . So I sought private CBT with a lady I had previously seen who was fantastic . It took me weeks to tell her the thoughts I had about my sons appearance when I first met him due to feeling so ashamed of the thoughts . However when i told her she didn't hate me as I'd expected but instead said she thought I had possibly been on the border of psychosis and that I was clearly white unwell and not to think it meant I was a terrible person . It was a little scary to hear the term psychosis but as the thoughts had now gone and I recognised hormones can make you feel a bit crazy and every day I just felt relief that I could see my son as everyone else did.

We continued with the CBT and exposure to the contaminants which was tough but I was progressing really well . We also noticed a link between my PMS and worsening symptoms and it was always much harder 2 weeks before my period.

So in my last PMS stage ( 2 weeks ago ) the horrible thoughts about my sons appearance came back . I was so sad by this and actually started to get anxious about looking st my son fir fear I would get the horrible thoughts and thus confirm I am the worst horrible mother in the world . I start to try and avoid looking at him or conversely I will keep looking st him to see if I can see the oddness . At times I can't see it and I feel such an overwhelming sense of relief and joy but then I'll have a horrible thought back like " I hate your face " about my son or " your so ugly " . I feel so sick with guilt even writing this as j am certain I don't mean what I think !! I would do anything to get rid of these thoughts .

I know I love my son and everyone tells me I am a good mum but I honestly feel do wrecked with guilt now the thoughts have come back . I told my therapist this week that they had come back and she seemed concerned but agreed that I'm not currently psychotic , I can't be as I do know these thoughts are not in touch with reality most of the time .

I finally opened up to my best friend and mum this week about the awful thoughts and they both think they are just ocd intrusive thoughts and were vey kind and said I am not a terrible person . But deep down I'm still terrified that I am just an awful shallow person and then I get scared , what if I don't love my son , what if I then killed him ? I know I never would but the thought still terrifies me

So sorry for the very long post just if anyone can in anyway relate or offer any help I'd be so grateful xx

10 Replies

  • Hi Jenna333,

    Welcome to the forum, and thank you for being so honest in your post. I know it can be very difficult to find ways of opening up and it is fantastic that you have written here, and have talked openly to your mum and best friend. It is so important to keep talking about how you are feeling.

    Congratulations on having a lovely little boy! You clearly adore your son and are a brilliant mum. It does sound like you've had a particularly tough and scary time of pregnancy and post-birth, so I am sorry to read this. It is hard for mums in many ways and you'll certainly find that you aren't the only one feeling like this. I'm sure there will be many other mums on here that have had similar feelings.

    How old is your son now?

    I can very much relate to your feelings of guilt. I was very ill with post partum psychosis after the birth of my first son 3 years ago (almost to the day). I too had intrusive thoughts that I found very scary, so I really feel for you. It took me 3 months in a mother and baby until, medication, and lots of care from friends and family, but I have got better, and now completely back to 'myself'. It's important for you to know that you won't always feel like this, and you will get better.

    When did you last see your doctor? Have you had any further discussions recently with medical staff about how you are feeling?

    We are here for you, as a lovely supportive group, so do keep coming back and talking to us.

    Lots of love,

    Jessie x

  • Hello Jenna333

    Thank you for being so honest and open here. I can't really add much to the reply above. I also wondered how old your baby is now. It's such a shame that something as special as the birth of our baby can trigger such thoughts. Try not to worry ..... you are not on your own.

    I had postpartum psychosis many years ago and most of the thoughts I had were very unsettling and it took me a long time to recover. I also heard voices telling me I was a bad mother.

    The thoughts you have are not your own but an illness which you need a lot of help to overcome. Perhaps you could go back to your GP so that he / she can refer you for assessment and other interventions. or try an adjustment to your medication? As soon as you have a proper diagnosis, the medical team will know how to help you through this difficult time.

    Take good care of yourself. We are always here to talk ...........

  • Thank you so much Jessieh and Lilybeth for your kind words .

    My son is now 11 months old and becoming a cheeky little boy :)

    It's difficult as my GP surgery is really not very good and as I work in mental health I was ashamed to admit really the extent of the problem as was afraid I would be referred to the perinatal team where I know quite a few of the nurses . I've been paying privately for CBT with a really experienced mental health nurse / CBT therapist so that's why I feel so confused about the mention of psychosis .

    I've actually worked with people who have suffered post partum psychosis and my heart goes out to both of you as I recognise how serious and distressing it is . That's why I'm so confused by her mentioning psychosis as I'm certain I wasn't floridly psychotic , Eg I was still functioning and could hide how I felt . Maybe they were / are delusions but the fact I'm questioning it makes me think they are not ? Sometimes though they feel so real and I do know for a fact that when I first saw my son it wasn't an intrusive thought as I really did think he looked cruel / odd which no one else appeared to see .

    The perinatal service in the county which I live only works with people till they are 12 months post partum so maybe I need to ask to see a regular psychiatrist ? Or is there any special services any one knows of where I could see someone privately ?

    Thanks so much again xxx

  • Hi Jenna333,

    Welcome to the forum and thanks for sharing your experience with us so openly and honestly. It sounds as though you have had a tough time - it's awful when we think having a baby should be such a happy time isn't it. I can understand your confusion about what has been happening, especially with you working in mental health. I wanted to direct you to the APP website and Insider Guides, if you haven't already seen them:

    APP also offer a 2nd Opinion Psychiatry Service, which I don't know if you could access, or perhaps look into further. Here is that link too:

    I had PP after the birth of my 1st child in 2009 and can really identify with a lot of the things you describe around obsessions and anxieties. I had a lot of other manic and psychotic symptoms too and spent time in a MBU and took medication for a total of 3 years (I have no other MH diagnosis and have remained well since, including another baby in 2013).

    I'm sorry to hear that the thoughts about your little boy have been so hard. 11 months is a lovely age though, and I'm sure he will start becoming more and more cheeky as time goes on and the difficult memories will begin to be added to with much happier ones when you spend more time together. I think only working with Mums for the 1st year is quite common with perinatal services (there aren't any where I live unfortunately, so I had to travel to an MBU, then Early Intervention when home and limited CMHT input for my 2nd).

    The important thing is that the difficulties you describe are part of an illness and are not you. With the right support, you can feel better and enjoy being a parent as much as I know you want to. Please don't feel guilty, none of this is your fault. Reaching out here is a big step and we are here to chat and try and share our experiences to help with any questions you might have. I hope some of this has been helpful to you, take care, xx

  • Hello Jenna333,

    Thank you for posting, I appreciate a lot of it must have been difficult to write.

    I had PP after the birth of my first son in 2012. Although my psychosis didn't hit until about 3 weeks after the birth I also had some odd thoughts in that time, some of which I am sure were early symptoms, others probably the result of hormones, sleep deprivation, unrealistic expectations or a combination of the above!

    I too didn't have that rush of love when my son was born (I wish I'd been told that doesn't necessarily happen to everyone); I didn't think he was beautiful straight away, I just couldn't see beyond how purple he was and he seemed so huge! Later, when ill in the mother and baby unit, I would at times think he was some kind of monster rather than a baby. At the time when I think my symptoms were starting, I thought my son was growing before my eyes in the night, and then he'd be a tiny baby again come morning. I don't know if I was hallucinating or just had altered perception in the midst of sleep deprived night feeds but it was very strange. When recovering in the MBU, my perception of people's facial expressions was definitely affected too. I think you project your fears, anxieties and paranoia and in the same way as hearing what you want to hear or finding meaning in every little thing, you see what your mind wants to see (or what it doesn't want to see). I distinctly remember the first time I had leave from the MBU and my dad was driving me home - I kept looking back anxiously to check my son was OK as I'd sat in the front passenger seat and I was convinced my dad was getting cross every time I looked back, blaming my baby for what had happened and being angry that I was worrying about him rather than making myself the priority.

    Whether your symptoms are/were OCD, anxiety, depression, psychosis - and I'm sure there is a fair amount of overlap - the intrusive thoughts sound awful and I'm sorry you had such a stressful pregnancy. Any kind of postnatal/antenatal mental illness is so cruel as it is a time we should be so happy and our new baby becomes the centre of thoughts and behaviours that are not our own and are not our fault. I know it's hard not to feel guilty about things we've thought, said or done, especially when it's about our babies, but it's not something you can control and it does not make you a bad mum. You sound like a great mum.

    I'm sure there have been useful video links given around intrusive thoughts in previous posts that I'll try and find...

    There is a huge amount of excellent information on APP's website, including PP symptoms, a second opinion service and useful links, which you might find helpful -

    If you are keen to have a clear diagnosis, the second opinion service offered by Prof Ian Jones in Cardiff might be an option. If this is available to you, you just need a GP referral I think (I highly recommend seeing him) -

    Wishing you all the very best x

  • The video I mentioned is

    - hope that works x

  • Hello Jenna333

    Thank you for taking the time to reply. I hope the links and advice above will be helpful. We are very fortunate in the UK to have our National Health Service. Perhaps a psychiatrist will be able to advise you? The Second Opinion Service mentioned above offered by Prof Jones has been so helpful to some mums here and their care teams but is only available in the UK.

    Take good care .... I hope you find the support you need in your country. We are here to lean on in the meantime.

  • Dear Jenna,

    I'm so sorry to hear you're having such a hard time. That's tough as well that you work in mental health so know some of the people you might be referred to.

    I thought that maybe this organisation Maternal OCD might help? They are based in the UK, and I'm not sure where you are, but at least you might find some info / links / support etc? And perhaps their information might help you to be clearer about your diagnosis etc.

    Maternal OCD

    0845 390 6232

    I really hope you can get the support you need.

    Just to let you know during my psychosis/depression I felt I was really evil too, for not being able to care for my baby and 'rejecting' him and that the illness was somehow my fault. But it's really not any of our faults - it's just that we were will, but I know that's hard to really 'feel' sometimes.

    Take care

  • Thank you so much ladies for you're thoughtful and kind responses . I think you're all pretty amazing actually offering help to others when I imagine you must have all been to hell and back with your post partum psychosis .

    I will have a look at the intrusive thoughts link , I'd never heard of the maternal OCD servuce but that sounds great so will definetly look into that . I am based in the UK so the second opinion service might be really helpful too

    Genuinely thank you so much , you've all given me some hope xxx

  • Hello Jenna333

    I think we are privileged to share your experience and I'm glad you have found the support helpful. It's good that you live in the UK .... I think I was confused in my earlier reply to you. I had the opportunity to meet Prof Jones many years ago and he answered so many questions I had wondered about for years .... not least confirming my diagnoses of PP after reading my notes.

    Take very good care of yourself. We are all here to lean on.

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