Whenever people hear the term postpartum depression, images of tearful women holding newborn infants usually come to mind. People rarely conjure up images of men with their newborn babies when they hear that someone is struggling with postpartum depression. Although postpartum depression commonly refers to a mother’s struggles, it can actually pertain to a father’s difficulties as well.
Male postpartum depression is a real condition and has historically been overlooked by physicians, practitioners, and mental health professionals. Like women, it is normal for there to be an adjustment period following the birth of a child. Men are exhausted, trying to adjust to parenthood, and attempting to meet their normal work and household responsibilities. However, when symptoms linger longer than expected, it may be indicative of a larger problem.
PPND, or paternal postnatal depression, is a fairly common condition. It is estimated that approximately 8% to 10% of fathers experience postpartum depression after the birth of a child. While women often internalize their fear and sadness, men externalize it. Men are more likely to express their depression through angry outbursts, aggressive behavior, or irritability. Men may feel disconnected from the relationship, experience anxiety, and have feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. Men may experience dark moods that can make them vulnerable to engaging in negative behaviors, such as drinking, gambling, or using drugs.
Male postpartum depression is a serious condition, but highly treatable. It is important to be vigilant to the signs of male postpartum depression, which can include:
Elevated Anger, Conflict, and Fights With Others
Men may have trouble verbalizing their feelings, causing them to act them out behaviorally. Men may appear to be on edge and overly aggressive or harsh. New fathers may display aggressive behaviors and instigate conflicts and fights with others. They may show elevated, unwarranted angry responses that are not equivalent to the situation.
Frequent Feelings of Aggravation and Irritation
Those suffering from PPND may display increased levels of irritability and have lower patience levels. They may become easily aggravated over small, insignificant things. This behavior can cause much unneeded turmoil in a home with a new baby and a typically sleep-deprived new mother.
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Aggressive or Violent Behavior
New fathers may become highly aggressive, or even violent towards others. Obviously, this type of behavior must be addressed immediately with a medical or mental health professional.
Significant Fluctuations in Weight
Through their depression, these men may experience severe fluctuations in weight. They may eat excessively and gain weight, or may eat less and lose weight.
Isolating From Family and Friends
Fathers may start to isolate from loved ones. They may withdraw from family functions and refrain from hanging out with friends. They may turn down socialization opportunities at work or other business engagements.
Being Easily Stressed
Another common symptom is having a lower frustration tolerance, causing them to feel increased amounts of stress. Due to elevated stress levels, they may be easily set off by minor things.
Increased Impulsivity and Risk-Taking Behaviors
Men can show higher levels of impulsivity and act without thinking. They may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors and impulsive decision making.
Difficulty With Concentration, Focus, and Motivation
New fathers can show decreased levels of concentration and have a diminished ability to focus. They may also show a lack of motivation to engage in certain activities.
Lack of Interest in Activities That Were Once Enjoyable
Another very common symptom is when father begin to veer away from activities that were once enjoyable to them. They can start to show a lack of interest in things that they used to deem as pleasing and fun.
Excessive Fatigue and Tiredness
Despite the normal disruptions in sleep that are expected with a new baby, men may show excessive levels of fatigue and tiredness. They may have low energy levels and have difficulty functioning and getting through the day.
Feelings of Sadness and Increased Tearfulness
Some men may appear outwardly sad and have excessive bouts of tearfulness. This is one of the more obvious signs their partners tend to notice early on.
Thoughts of Self-Harming Behaviors or Suicidal Thoughts
In extreme situations, men may develop thoughts of self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts. This too, is a symptom that requires the immediate attention of a medical professional.
Being vigilant and aware of the signs of male postpartum depression is critical in getting a new father the help and support that he needs. This condition is quiet common and should not be ignored.