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Anxiety After a Miscarriage or Stillbirth

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and OCD


Updated June 13, 2014

Anxiety Disorders After Miscarriage

Both men and women can develop symptoms of anxiety disorders after a miscarriage happens.

Photo: George Doyle / Getty Images
Updated June 13, 2014

Research shows that it's not uncommon for parents to develop problems with anxiety and depression after having a miscarriage or a stillbirth. Most people know the signs of depression, but recognizing the signs of an anxiety disorder can be a little more challenging -- and some research suggests that anxiety disorders after a miscarriage may actually be more common than depression.

General Anxiety Disorder

People who have general anxiety disorder, or GAD, have worries about daily life that are out of proportion to what would normally be expected. The person may even recognize that the worry was excessive but may have some or all of the following symptoms also:

  • Inability to relax
  • Startling easily
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension/aches
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Trembling and twitching
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Light headedness

A GAD diagnosis requires that the excessive worry be present for at least six months.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

At least one study has found a risk of developing obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) following a miscarriage. Although the popular stereotype of OCD is of compulsive hand washing and house cleaning, there's more to OCD:

  • Persistent thoughts of a disturbing nature
  • Use of rituals to control the upsetting thoughts
  • Either the rituals or the thoughts (or both) are disruptive to the person's daily life

The disturbing thoughts might include thoughts such as violence or harm to loved ones or unwanted sexual thoughts. The person usually does not get any joy out of the associated rituals but performing the ritual may give temporary relief from the unwanted thoughts.

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