Managing Infertility Stress

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By Linda Hammer Burns. PhD

Infertility is a complicated medical problem that can trigger many different emotions. The experience can cause sudden acute psychological pain and grief following, for example, an unexpected diagnosis or difficult treatment decision. Infertility can also be an open-ended situation where there are no clear endings and mourning and grief is prolonged because a glimmer of hope may linger.

Unfortunately, the infertility experience can trigger unresolved emotional issues from the past and may also launch a major assault on one's self esteem and personal identity. Infertility can feel like a death, like a prolonged mourning process as dreams die and hopes are dashed. It can also be a time filled with feelings of jealousy, rage, envy, and longing. Individuals and couples may isolate themselves or feel isolated from family and friends. Many people get worn down physically and emotionally by the experience and not surprisingly, marital, family, and social relationships can suffer as well.

It may be hard to know when emotional responses to the pain and frustration of infertility are within normal, expected range or are excessive and problematic.

If you are experiencing any of the following feelings, you may want to see an infertility counselor or therapist:

  • You have felt sad, depressed, or hopeless for longer than two weeks.
  • You have noticed changes in your appetite, either eating more or less than usual.
  • You are having trouble sleeping or are sleeping more than usual. You awaken not feeling rested.
  • You feel anxious, agitated, and worried much of the time.
  • You have panic attacks--particularly related to infertility situations or issues.
  • You feel lethargic or have lost interest in usually enjoyable activities.
  • You have trouble concentrating, are easily distracted, and/or have difficulty making decisions.
  • You have persistent feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • You feel easily irritated, angry, and frustrated.
  • You have thoughts of death or dying.
  • You have lost interest in sex and/or fail to have orgasms.
  • Relationships with friends and family are no longer rewarding and enjoyable and you prefer being alone.

Related Article:

When to Seek Professional Help for the Emotional Aspects for Infertility Fact Sheet