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Child Psychology Blogs

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Worried Sick About Autism? Read This Mother's Letter

I have a one year old son who is an absolute delight. He smiles and laughs, and uses eye contact effectively to communicate and interact. I wanted to post because I visited read your page numerous times when I was feeling anxious and found your rational and informative responses reassuring. Up until about 9- 10 months I was incredibly anxious that my son wasn't interacting much or communicating well- particularly in terms of eye contact. I identified with so many of the concerns that people have posted, including fears about Autism even though I knew that such early diagnosis is not possible. I took him to the Dr a few times and despite their reassurance, my gut feeling was that something was wrong. I think parents with young children are faced with a lot of information and we also spend time around other babies who are developing different skills at different paces. Whilst this can sometimes be reassuring it can also be unnerving, depending on perspective at the time. On reflection I think I had some unhealthy postpartum levels of anxiety and seeking treatment for this helped me to shift my focus and start to enjoy my son again while his social skills continued to develop.
Thanks for all the work you do and the time you take to write replies. It’s a minefield out there and a lot of the other information I came across on the internet served to heighten, not allay my fears. 

This letter from "Anonymous" was so welcome to me. Naturally I like to be told that I'm doing a good job--but I also hope that posting her words will send a meaningful message to the many young mothers whose anxiety becomes overwhelming for them. Many women don't understand that perinatal mood disorders can include more than the classical postpartum depression. If they don't hear voices telling them to kill the baby, they think they are quite all right. They don't realize that their moods and concerns may be out of control, causing them to suffer, and interfering with their relationships with the baby and other people (including their husbands).

Of course I am not saying that every worry about a baby is a symptom of a mood disorder. Worrying is a part of being a parent and a painful but realistic reflection of the responsibility parents have. But when no amount of reassurance makes someone feel better, she and her family need to consider whether counseling or even some medication would help them all get through this period of their lives better. Gynecologists nowadays are supposed to receive some training in screening for perinatal mood disorders and making recommendations about treatment, and they are certainly the first people most mothers should contact when they have excessive worry or  concern.  Unfortunately, a number of state programs for education of the public and professionals about these problems lost funding during the economic recession and have not had support renewed. However, if your health insurance allows for some mental health visits, being very worried about your young baby may be a good reason to seek private care and use some of those visits.

I want to reiterate what "Anonymous" says above: comparing your baby to other babies you know is usually just a way to feed anxiety. They are really all different,  and if you are already anxious you will busily look for the things they do better than your baby, and you will ignore the things your baby does better than the others! It's just a shame that most parent education material tells about average development in various areas, but does not mention the very normal deviations from the average that are characteristic of any group of babies. "Average" and "normal" do not mean the same thing at all--  but when you're already prey to exaggerated fears, it's quite easy to think that anything about your baby that's not "average" is cause for terrible alarm.


  1. DAN! to ARI to MAPS.

    Sigh ...

    Worried parents make excellent marks.