Did you know that postnatal depression can affect men too? It’s not just women who get it – in fact, up to 10% of fathers may experience postnatal depression after their baby is born. This can have a significant impact on the whole family, so it’s important to know what the signs and symptoms are, and how to get treatment if needed.
In this blog post, I will take a closer look at postnatal depression in men, and discuss some of the ways it can affect both dads and their families. I will also touch on some of the treatment options available.
If you are a man who has recently become a father, or you know someone who is, then please read on for more information about postnatal depression in men.
The prevalence and causes of postnatal depression in men
It’s estimated that up to one in ten fathers may experience postnatal depression after the birth of their child. While the exact causes are not fully understood, it is thought to be related to the hormonal and psychological changes that occur during pregnancy and after birth. It can also be a reaction to the new responsibilities of parenthood, or a lack of support from partner or family.
The signs and symptoms of postnatal depression in men
The signs and symptoms of postnatal depression in men can vary, but may include:
- feeling sad or down
- experiencing an overwhelming anxiety about the future
- having no energy or motivation
- poor concentration and memory
- struggling to sleep
- feeling irritable or angry, which leads to conflict in the family and in extreme cases even intimate partner violence
- withdrawing from friends and family
- self-medicating with alcohol or drugs
- changes in eating habits and body weight fluctuations
- body aches and pains with no physical cause
- thinking about self-harm or suicide
The impact on the family
The impact on the parents
Postnatal depression has a significant impact on fathers and their families. It can lead to relationship problems, particularly if the mother is struggling with postnatal depression too.
If the situation escalates to outright conflict and violence, the damage might be irreparable. The family may need to get outside help to deal with the situation, or in extreme cases, the father may need to move out for a period of time.
The impact on the child
Postnatal depression, both in the mother or in the father, can cause problems with bonding and attachment with the child.
This is because the parents do not have the energy or inclination to play or sing with their baby, or to respond to their needs in a timely way.
As a result, the child may become withdrawn and clingy, or have problems with sleep, feeding and development.
Unfortunately the impact of weak attachment with their primary caregivers will follow the child well into adulthood. They will become adults who have trouble forming close relationships, and who may suffer from depression themselves.
In severe cases of postnatal depression, it can even lead to child abuse or neglect, with even worse repercussions on the child’s future.
Treatment for postnatal depression in men
The first step is to visit your GP, who will be able to give you a full assessment and refer you for treatment if necessary.
Treatment for postnatal depression in men can include:
- counselling and psychotherapy
- group therapy
- activity-based therapies such as exercise or art classes
If you are worried about the impact of postnatal depression on your family, it’s important to seek help and support
The good news is that with treatment, most men recover from postnatal depression and go on to have healthy relationships with their partner and children.
More about Postnatal / Postpartum and Perinatal Depression
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