Many have heard of Postpartum Depression, a mood disorder that affect some mothers after childbirth due to hormonal changes, fatigue, pain from just giving birth, and psychological adjustments to motherhood. In recent years, the amount of information brought forward about this disorder has helped reduce the stigma associated with it and an influx of resources now made available to mothers.
However, there is a disorder that can also affect fathers, that is not commonly known but still just as important. Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND), that affects 1 in 4 new fathers, can have severe and devastating implications on the father, his relationship to the mother, and his children. PPND often goes undiagnosed because of the fact that men often show different symptoms as opposed to classic depression. These are 10 Signs of Paternal Postnatal Depression.
10 Risk Factors
Paternal Postnatal Depression can develop even when the mother of the baby is pregnant, and the father is adjusting to the idea of him becoming a father. It can be difficult to predict whether a man might suffer from PPND, as 2 to 25% of fathers experience this condition. There are some risk factors such as; lack of social support or help from friends and family, lack of male role model while he was young, and financial or work stress.
The chances are higher if the expected father has had a history of depression, or if his spouse is experiencing maternal depression. The earlier these conditions are tested for and treated, the more likely symptoms won't progress to be worse.
9 Symptoms of Paternal Postnatal Depression
You may be familiar with symptoms of Classic Depression: low and sad mood, loss of interest or pleasure, fatigue, loss of appetite, worthless or guilty feelings, or recurring thoughts about death and suicide. However, studies show that men can show different symptoms of depression than what we are used to. This could be why so many men go untreated or are affected by masochistic stigmas that prevent him from being open about his feelings because he doesn't want to appear weak.
PPND symptoms can be a man being in constant conflict with others, losing or gaining weight without trying, easily stressed, feeling discouraged, problems concentrating, and loss of motivation yet increased concerns about productivity at work. If you notice him acting out of character, it's important to form open communication and support.
Another symptom shown in men with PPND is an increase in impulsive behaviour. This could be why a man experiencing the condition may engage in risky behaviour like extramarital sex. This could be caused by changes in the man's hormones (yes, their hormones do change), the stress of becoming a father, lack of sex due to lower libido, or strain from a poor relationship with the baby's mother. A man experiencing PPND may search to feel excitement and danger, instead of acknowledging his emotional and mental needs.
There is no excuse for infidelity, however, lack of sleep can impact cognitive reasoning which is why a decision can be made without one fully comprehending implications to one's actions. It is important that expecting or new-parents make time to have intimate time together to not only strengthen their relationship but to be vulnerable enough for genuine conversations with each other. Couples that associate parenthood to teamwork are generally happier in their relationship.
7 Anger, Irritability, and Frustration.
Depression in men may also present itself through behaviours such as anger, irritability and frustration. Since men are sometimes not comfortable expressing themselves through words or tears, these bottled-up emotions can erupt leading to violent behaviour.
Anxiety or inner-conflict of him not feeling like he is measuring up as a father, a man, spouse or supporter can be factors causing the biological response. Other times, there may not be any added stressors but his feelings of anger caused by a chemical imbalance in his brain caused by an influx of hormones. It is imperative if a man is experiencing these symptoms of PPND to seek medical treatment and counselling services. Constant anger can affect the man's overall well-being as well as the life of his spouse and children.
6 Physical Manifestations caused by Psychological Stress
Depression can cause physical discomforts, as seen in physical manifestations caused by psychological stress in men experiencing PPND. Common manifestations are chronic physical fatigue, headaches, low testosterone, and digestive issues.
Physical manifestations can be serious as men could misuse prescribed or over the counter pain-alleviating medication that can cause damage to organs if they are not used for its intended purpose. There could be an affliction on the family financially (the father taking too many sick days from work), or he is unable to care for the new baby or his other children, and unable to do other tasks around his home. It is important to rule out the possibility of actual physical ailments before labelling it a symptom of depression, however. Your family doctor can run tests before prescribing an anti-depressant medication for physical manifestations of depression.
5 Substance Abuse
Due to men with PPND displaying behaviours such as being impulsive and reckless, another common sign is a father abusing drugs or alcohol.
Bringing a child into the world can be exciting, but also frightening for some parents-to-be. There are men who grieve their single-life once they find out they are about to become fathers. They could use substance abuse as a way to avoid or defuse from the stress of being a caregiver. Nonetheless, substance abuse can be devastating on families, not to mention dangerous for a new baby. While intoxicated, one's perceptions and logical reasoning are hindered, increasing the likelihood that a baby can be dropped, abused or even killed.
4 Social Isolation
Social isolation, especially from an extrovert who seems to be acting out of character, can be an indicator of Paternal Postnatal Depression. These new fathers no longer have the energy, dedication, or motivation to maintain healthy relationships. They may create conflict with others to purposely isolate themselves, or feel like they can no longer relate to their friends without children or with other more experienced fathers.
Since becoming a father is a new and life-changing event, a man may question his self-identity and worth; if he feels like he is failing as a father, husband/spouse, or in his capabilities of being a man. This may cause him shame and embarrassment, thus distancing himself away from those he cares about.
3 Difficulty Forming An Attachment to the Child
PPND can occur while a man's partner is pregnant and right up until the child is a year old. This can make it very difficult for the father to form an unconditional love attachment, most parents have for their children. He could feel excluded and jealous of the bond between the mother and child, unsupportive of parenting methods such as breastfeeding or begin to resent the child for changing his life or his relationship with his spouse.
According to Healthy Children, children who have been exposed to a father's depression at an early age, have a higher risk of developmental delays and emotional and behavioural difficulties at an older age. Children need love and support from caregivers to properly thrive.
2 Effects of Paternal Postnatal Depression
Fathers with PPND can exhibit symptoms of anger, irritability, frustration, substance abuse, and violent behaviour. A depressed father would be less likely to positively communicate with his children and more likely to be short-tempered and have little patience with his kids. Unfortunately, domestic violence can be affiliated with this condition, that can have horrible ramifications on children. Children who have been abused or have witnessed abuse from an early age can later struggle with mental illness, engage in aggressive and criminal behaviour, unable to hold employment and maintain healthy and stable relationships as adults.
Men who suffer from PPND can make their spouse more vulnerable to depression. However, 50% of men who suffer from PPND also had a spouse who suffered from maternal depression before his symptoms developed.
Although Paternal Postnatal Depression is a very serious condition, it is also treatable. It is important for all new parents to acknowledge their emotional and mental health, practice self-care, and to be loved and supported.
If you are experiencing multiple symptoms of PPND, it is important to talk to your doctor. Numerous treatments such as medication, counselling, and support groups have been found to be very beneficial in treating this condition. The first step is for the dad to acknowledge and admit he needs help so he can learn how to effectively cope in the best interest of him, his spouse and his family.