Psychologist: Post-Adoption Depression

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
You may use the stars on the left to rate and leave feedback for the current article. No registration is required. Waiting for 5 votes 0.0 of 5 stars (0 votes) — Thanks for your vote

Please fill out the following optional information before submitting your rating:

You have introduced Adoption Stress. Is this the same as Post-Adoption Depression? Who is likely to experience it and how can it be prevented?

The term "Post-Adoption Depression" has been used to explain the feelings of sadness that are experienced by many adoptive parents subsequent to the adoptive process. Unlike postpartum depression, which may be caused by significant physiological and hormonal changes (e.g., a sudden decrease in estrogen and progesterone in the bloodstream), Post-Adoption Depression cannot. Post-Adoption Depression focuses on the feelings of sadness that are experienced after the attainment of a long-term goal that has required time, money, effort, emotional strain and patience.

Post-Adoption Depression is a symptom that falls under a much larger umbrella - what I have called "Adoption Stress." The latter refers to the feelings, thoughts, actions and the physical and spiritual reactions of all parties who are involved in the adoption process (e.g., a mother who surrenders her child for adoption, an adoptive child, an adoptive parent, a compassionate case worker, etc.).

We can better understand and appreciate the depressive symptomatology experienced by many adoptive parents if we first consider 1) pre-adoption stressors, 2) stress associated with the acquisition of an adoptive child and 3) post-adoption stress. By focusing solely on Post-Adoption Depression, we miss the causative or related stressors that contribute to the adoptive parent’s feelings of sadness. For example, the attainment of a long-term goal of having an adoptive child often opens the door to seemingly insensitive questions from others about infertility and prior losses. These questions will likely stimulate unresolved feelings, and may cause adoptive parents to revisit pre-adoption stress. The acquisition of an adoptive child is often colored by serious medical concerns, "misunderstandings" and heartbreaking disappointments. And, the post-adoption experience is often marked by tremendous life changes, new responsibilities and a future marked by uncertainty and fear.

During a recent therapeutic session with a group of adoptive parents, we explored a number of participants’ feelings of sadness. Suddenly, one mother exclaimed, "I didn't sign-up for this!" Her comment was met by applause from several of the participants. Her statement underscores the complex continuum of "before, during and after stressors" that are faced by adoptive parents.

How can we prevent Post-Adoption Depression? First, we must educate all people involved in the adoptive process about Adoption Stress. If more people understood that the feelings, thoughts, actions and the physical and spiritual reactions were a normal response to a very stressful, multifaceted experience, fewer people would struggle with conflicted feelings. We must also focus our attention on parents who have been prone to feelings of depression and do not fare well when faced with considerable stress. We must encourage them to become involved in support groups or counseling. If we do this prior to parents entering into the adoptive process we can ultimately decrease the post-adoption stress that is experienced by many adoptive parents.

by Mark Lerner, Ph.D.

Submit Your Question


The information and advice provided is intended to be general information, NOT as advice on how to deal with a particular child's situation and or problem. If your child has a specific problem you need to ask your pediatrician about it - only after a careful history and physical exam can a medical diagnosis and/or treatment plan be made. This Web site does not constitute a physician-patient relationship.

This material has been provided by, an innovative adoption medicine private practice and educational service, dedicated to helping parents and adoption agencies with the complex pre-adoption medical issues of internationally adopted children. All medical interactions are performed via, e-mail, express mail, telephone, and fax. There is no need to make a live appointment or travel outside of your hometown. For more information, visit or call 631-499-4114.

Visitor Comments (0) - Be the first to comment
Adding your comments contributes to the adoption community. Please keep all comments on topic and civil. Visitors are invited to comment and vote for or flag comments based on appropriateness and helpfulness. All comments must adhere to our commenting rules and are subject to moderation.

To see local International Adoption resources, please select a location (U.S. only):

Need a Home Study?
Adoption Photolisting
Shawn (PA / 14 / M)
"My name is Shawn. I am smart. I am intelligent. I am brave. I fought off ferocious lions--sike nah! A real example is when I stood up for myself against a sixth grader when... [more]
Directory of Adoption Professionals
Find a professional
for all of your adoption needs including:

Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of

Settings Help Feedback
Template Settings
Width: 1024     1280
Choose a Location:
Choose a Theme: