Lots of attention has been given to postpartum depression, which happens to moms soon after birth. But many are surprised to learn that fathers can and do experience postpartum depression as well! A study by the University of Michigan, published in the March 2011 issue of Pediatrics, found that a significant number of fathers with babies under a year old (about 7%) were clinically depressed. Fathers with infants 3 months to 6 months old were most likely to be depressed; in this category one in four dads was found to be depressed.
The results of this study are aimed at making doctors aware that just as they screen new mothers for depression, fathers should be screened for Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND) as well.
Depression in dads is not something new, it has just been swept under the rug. Men’s hormones actually change too when their wife has a baby! A new father may feel resentment at the arrival of a new baby, or irritated by the many changes in his life as a father. He may be short tempered, snappy, and feel like smacking that little bundle of joy that won’t stop crying.
Yet many men never admit that they are depressed, and never seek the help deserve. They are taught to hide their personal issues and be strong. And the signs of depression in men are different than in women (anger and aggression rather than tears and helplessness), and many never realize that what they are feeling is really depression.
But like any medical issue, depression is not something to be ignored. Children need a stable, positive father for healthy development and well-being. Women need a supportive husband who can be a partner in raising the kids. And men need to feel inner peace which enable them to live happy, productive, enriching lives.
Symptoms of Men’s Depression:
- Becoming irritable, angry, or confrontational
- Feeling stressed and discouraged
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Violent behavior
- Working or studying obsessively
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Impulsive or risky behavior, such as reckless driving and extramarital affairs
- Physical ailments: Headaches, digestive problems, pain
- Lack of concentration, lack of interest in work, hobbies, sex
- Thoughts of suicide
Who is at risk:
Any man can be at risk for PPND, but there are some factors that make it more likely:
- Family history of depression
- Preexisting marital discord
- Lack of sleep
- Unemployment significantly ups the incidence of PPND
- Men who’s wives suffer from postpartum depression are more likely to have it as well.
A man who’s depressed may experience only a few of the symptoms, or many. How bad they are may vary too, or get worse over time. It is important to remember that admitting you are depressed is a sign of strength and hope, not weakness! Depression is a treatable condition and should not be suffered in silence. Ignoring it will not make it go away, in fact if left untreated it tends to get worse. After all, if you had a broken ankle you wouldn’t just ignore the pain and keep walking around on it! Counseling and regular exercise can be very helpful, and sometimes medications will be prescribed. Look for a qualified therapist who has experience in treating men with depression.
Every family deserves a happy, loving father, and every man deserves to feel worthy and capable of handling life’s day-to-day ups and downs with confidence. Don’t suffer alone. There are many resources online, or through your doctor. Get help today!