HomeArticlesPostpartum Depression in Dads

Postpartum Depression in Dads

Postpartum depression is real and distressing for new parents, and it can often include fathers. This can be a reaction to a mother with postpartum depression, or it may be its own entity. As with new mothers, postpartum reactions can be misunderstood, ignored, or kept silent.

In men, depression can present as irritability, poor sleep, a “shorter fuse,” and it is often mixed with anxiety. Many men with depression describe feeling that they have disproportionate responses: getting stuck at a red traffic light is no longer 20 seconds at a traffic light; it can feel catastrophic, leading to cascading negative thoughts.

First-time parents often try to seek traditional family and gender roles. Fathers may find themselves trying to be sources of emotional and financial stability when they really do not feel stable at all. It is not a reasonable expectation. Fathers can often be freighted with the perceived responsibility to stay strong and silent, thereby leaving their fears and frustrations unspoken.

Fatherhood—especially new fatherhood—is a profound transition. For many, this may take the form of a grief reaction. Fathers may grieve the freedom they had when they were single, the financial freedom of being a couple without children, and more. Social pressure can imply that fatherhood is the greatest gift in life, but it may not always feel that way. New fathers may feel silently guilty, making the situation worse.

This combination of unspoken grief and resentment can lead fathers to have feelings such as “I don’t like my children,” or “I just want my sleep back,” among other common thoughts. Since fatherhood is “supposed” to be joyful, new fathers may be fearful to express these emotions. Many fathers do not realize that these thoughts are normal.

Fathers feeling frustrated, irritable, and anxious do not necessarily need a diagnosis of postpartum depression. But they can seek help. This does not have to be elaborate, time-consuming, or costly.

Here are some simple ways to cope:

  • Connect with other new fathers. A conversation with a peer can help any father realize that his frustrations are common and understandable. It can also be helpful to share tips with one another. Set aside a regular, scheduled time to connect with another new father. Even if it is just a phone call, it can ease the pressure.
  • Consult with a counselor or therapist. There are a range of options to meet in person or by telehealth. This is a healthy, objective way to help find a “toolbox” to deal with emotions, and a constructive way to adapt to parenthood with an honest but positive approach.
  • Consider trying medication. For men who are particularly burdened with anxiety, depression, and related symptoms, medication can help. Newer medications for depression and anxiety are usually inexpensive, take effect quickly, and do not have the risk of dependence. A new father may discuss medication with a primary care provider (PCP), psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, or psychiatrist.

Men’s Medical
Men’s Medicalhttps://mensmedical.health
Andrew Varalli PMHNP is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Matt Freeman DNP, MPH is a primary care nurse practitioner and chronic disease epidemiologist. Iris Karas MEd, CAGS is a behavioral health consultant with specialties in parenting and men’s health. They share a practice, Men’s Medical, in Tucson.



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