Becoming a parent is a huge developmental milestone, for moms and dads alike. A lot of changes happen immediately and although health professionals educate many new parents about what these changes look like for moms, very few hear about a man’s transition into fatherhood.
Psychologically, men face some of the toughest developmental challenges when they become a father. They may also face challenges and changes in the relationship with their partner. As soon as a new baby enters the world, the need to listen, think critically, and make difficult parenting decisions take center stage. At the same time, intimate relations with your partner are not a priority. Health experts believe many men who relied on their partners for emotional support and intimacy can be left feeling guilty, resentful, and confused as they try to figure out how to support their partners while sacrificing their own support and need for intimacy.
Paternal Postpartum Depression
Fathers often face a new level of stress relating to their work performance and income. Recent studies show one in ten fathers get postpartum depression and nearly 20 percent are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when a new baby arrives. Some studies say that up to 50 percent of new dads experience PPD if their partner is experiencing depression, too.
Society views men as stoic, self-sacrificing, and most importantly, strong. When men feel none of those things as new fathers, they don’t want to admit it or seek help. Experts in paternal mental health say fathers are struggling and suffering with metal health difficulties at about the same rate as mothers. The majority of these mental health difficulties go unnoticed, undiagnosed, and untreated.
With the right knowledge and training, daughters, sons, mothers and other loved ones can be the difference for a father living with mental health difficulties. Knowing how to notice the signs of depression and other common mental health challenges can help more dads get the support they may need.
Watch for the Signs
Every person is different but there are several common depression symptoms. They include;
· Engaging in high-risk activities
· A need for alcohol or drugs
· Withdrawing from family and friends or becoming isolated
· Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
· Feeling anxious, restless
· Loss of interest in work, family, or once-pleasurable activities
· Problems with sexual desire and performance
· Feeling sad, "empty," flat, or hopeless
· Not being able to concentrate or remember details
· Feeling very tired, not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
· Overeating or not wanting to eat at all
· Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
· Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problem
It’s OK to Reach Out
Look for support from people who make you feel safe and cared for. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to treat you; they just need to be a good listener.
Make face time a priority. Phone calls, social media, and texts are great ways to stay in touch but they don’t replace good, old-fashioned in person quality time. The simple act of talking to someone face to face about how you feel can play a big role in easing symptoms of depression and keeping it away.
Try to keep up with social activities even if you don’t feel like it. Often when you’re depressed, it feels more comfortable to retreat into a shell, but studies show being around other people will make you feel less depressed.
Join a support group for depression. Being with others dealing with depression can go a long way in reducing your sense of isolation. You can also encourage each other, give and receive advice on how to cope, and share your experiences.
When fathers do not receive support or treatment for their mental health challenges, the entire family can be affected. Visit one of these web sites to learn about treatment and support options.