Yes. Postpartum depression can affect dads. Here’s what to look for.
It may explain some fathers’ behavior around their new family
Postpartum depression exists in new dads, but signs look different
The condition is diagnosed at a much lower rate than for new moms
Treatment can help
Giving birth and beginning to live as a new family with a newborn comes with a lot of change, which for women includes physical and hormonal changes along with lifestyle changes that can lead to postpartum depression (PPD). However, as it turns out, men can experience postpartum depression too. The immense changes that come with their role as a new dad are enough to trigger the condition.
Recognizing and addressing the signs of PPD in fathers as early as possible is important. It can not only provide relief to the new dad but it can also help improve family bonding and get everyone off to the best start possible on their new phase in life.
Here’s what male postpartum depression looks like
While postpartum depression looks different for everyone, the basic symptoms in new moms are well known. These include mood swings, crying spells, and anxiety among other symptoms. In dads, one in ten of whom can experience the condition, things look different.
While the condition doesn’t present the exact same way in every sufferer, generally symptoms may show up as withdrawing, extended use of alcohol and drugs, increased interpersonal conflict, and low-level aggression towards mother or baby by undermining activities that are happening. Men may make comments like “it doesn’t look like breastfeeding is working” or disparagingly saying “this baby’s always fussy, what’s wrong with him/her?”
Affected men may exhibit this kind of antisocial behavior because their depression is making them feel detached and excluded from what’s happening. They may wonder, for example, why the baby is seeming to bond with mom more and may conclude that there’s just something wrong with them. Or they may just decide that there’s something wrong with the new baby and obsessively worry.
The sneaky condition isn’t easy to spot
Sure. None of these things on their own are something to be concerned about. And all of the symptoms, in both parents, could be triggered or complicated by their intense new roles and a lack of sleep. But the key is to look for patterns here. A pattern that indicates that something’s not right.
The symptoms can be extremely hard to detect, especially in the context of a new family where there’s a lot of other new things going on. And the condition is much more prolifically detected in women. Most notably, a UK based study showed that 90 percent of adults could detect the condition in women versus 10 to 15 percent of people who are able to properly attribute male-based symptoms to their cause.
Difficulty detecting the problem may also be complicated by the fact that lots of dads just don’t like to talk about what’s going on. They feel the need to always appear strong and never show weakness, no matter how much they’re hurting. This gender-based social conditioning not only makes it harder to tell what’s happening, but it may also increase the intensity of symptoms. That’s because men don’t allow an outlet for their feelings and when negative emotions bottle up, they increase.
If you’re not sure what’s happening, get help
What can you do if you have an inkling that you may be affected? Start by talking to your family physician and consider initiating sessions with a psychologist or other therapist that specializes in helping a new family with their adjustment period. Help may come through a variety of techniques including cognitive behavioral therapy and possibly medication.
If you think there might be a problem, don’t hesitate to ask questions and learn more about the condition. Getting help has a lot of benefits. can make life better for dads, brightening their world. It can also help increase dad’s bond with mom and with the new baby.
There are also a variety of online resources available, though it isn’t recommended to use them in the absence of real-world, offline help. The goal of this research is for dads and their support system to get a better sense of how the condition to manifest itself, to generally understand treatment options, and to connect with a broader community that has resources for assistance.
Benefits of addressing postpartum depression in men
If you think there may be a problem, there’s a lot of reasons to address it. At the top of the list is the general health, happiness, and well being of any dad who is suffering. No one deserves to live under the cloud of such a serious mental health issue and treatment can help make life brighter, calmer, and more joyful. It can also help dads enjoy time with their new family and relish these once in a lifetime moments.
Another, equally important benefit is the effect that treatment will have on bonding with their partner and new baby. Dads and moms will be able to see that life is better together and to enjoy their changed family. While there will still be challenges the family should be able to work through them together and to enjoy the happier times for what they are.
A deeper dive: Related reading on the 101
A website entirely dedicated to a discussion about and resources for PPD in men
Postpartum Depression for Dummies
An easy to read book about PPD in both men and women
A website on parenting support that is designed entirely for men