Most of us are familiar with the concept of postpartum depression (PPD), moms struggling with sadness, irritability, guilt, and other depressive symptoms after childbirth. Studies tell us that 1 in 7 women struggle with PPD. Most of us are far less familiar with the concept of men struggling with postpartum depression, however, 1 in 10 men deal with this, known as paternal postnatal depression (PPND). Among the symptoms are irritability, loss of enjoyment, hopelessness, feelings of guilt, hostility or indifference, irrational thoughts, and worry. Unfortunately, much is less known about PPND, which is not exactly shocking news since most men have been cultured to hide sadness, pain, and other emotions. Despite the lack of knowledge, the impacts are real and can be highly destructive. PPND can lead to panic attacks, suicidal ideations, social isolation, and can damage careers and relationships, specifically our marriages and our relationships with those new babies.
For many men struggling with PPND, the feelings of sadness quickly get entwined with other complicated emotions. In many situations this condition goes untreated, men tend to be socialized to hide their emotions, to be strong and stoic. Expressing the feelings associated with PPND sure feels like weakness, as such, men often deal with this pain in solitary, a great incubator for amplifying depression. Additionally, because this condition is not well known, many men think they are the only people to ever have these feelings, an idea that will often lead to shame. “The birth of my child is supposed to be a joyous event,” is the thought that many men have, but when it is followed up with, “Why am I so damn miserable,” feelings of guilt quickly arise. Guilt, shame, and loneliness on top of sadness…ugh, that can be a deep hole to climb out of.
Research on PPND is somewhat limited at this point. We only have a basic understanding into the reasons behind this condition. Here are a couple:
- With PPD, most research points to the fluctuations in a woman’s hormone levels as a significant factor. It appears that the same can be said for the development of PPND in men. It is known that in several animal species, the new dad’s testosterone levels will decrease after a birth. Lower testosterone levels in animals is associated with a reduction in libido, aggressive and competitive behaviors. This is likely nature’s way of trying to keep the dad around to protect the new baby, increasing its chances of survival. Early research confirms that this same change happens in some men. Studies have shown that testosterone levels in involved male partners are more likely to dip more than in men who remain single after their child’s birth. We already know that low testosterone levels have a strong correlation with depression.
- Some men struggling with PPND have talked about the difficulty of coping with the loss of control that often comes with a newborn. Any parent knows that life gets turned upside down with a new baby. Routine, consistency, and predictability often get thrown out the window. For the guy who likes to have it all figured out and buttoned down, this can be a difficult transition to cope with.
PPND, like other forms of depression, is a treatable condition that should not be ignored. Those dealing with PPND may find benefit in the following strategies:
Find Support and Talk
o Talk about your feelings, do your best to open up and express what is going on inside. Don’t be afraid to turn to your wife, friends, and family for the support everyone needs during times of struggle.
Find a Balance
o Taking care of yourself is an important part of coping with any type of stress. Remember to eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, and don’t forget about the hobbies and activities that you enjoyed before your child was born, although you may have less time to put towards these.
o If PPND is significantly impacting your marriage, your job, or your ability to parent, you should probably consider getting help from a professional. A trained mental health provider can assist you in coping with and overcoming the symptoms of PPND.
Remember that you are not alone! Most researchers believe that 10% of new dads deal with PPND, some estimates are much higher. You do not need to tackle your sadness in silence.
For additional information please check out postpartummen.com and saddaddy.com
About the Writer: Nicholas D'Amico TLMFT
Nicholas has worked with families and youth for several years in a variety of settings. He has extensive experience supporting struggling families and individuals in crisis involving issues such as; abuse, anger, delinquency, trauma, depression, and relationship distress. Nicholas employs a strength-based, family systems approach that fosters hope and happiness by empowering clients. He is passionate about helping couples enrich and strengthen their attachments, guiding families towards harmony, and supporting youth as they overcome the impacts of trauma and dysfunction.