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Why is Dad Sad?

Postnatal depression affects around 1 in 4 men, but their symptoms are often overlooked.

July 15, 2019

Postnatal depression—also called postpartum depression—is a type of depression that can develop following the birth of a baby.

In recent years, more and more awareness has been brought to the condition, and several celebrities, including Chrissy Teigen, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Brooke Shields, have publicly shared their experiences with it following their own pregnancies.

Despite the positive implications of this progress in spreading awareness, efforts to combat the taboo surrounding postnatal depression have been largely skewed in nature.

While it is true that the majority of those affected by postnatal depression are women, men, too, can suffer from the disorder.

A new British study, published in the Journal of Mental Health, found that participants (ages 18 to 70) were “almost twice as likely to correctly identify signs of postnatal depression in women than in men.”

Continue reading to find out:

  • More about the study and its findings
  • Signs of paternal postnatal depression
  • Paternal postnatal depression treatment options and other resources

The Study

Premise

The goal of the study was to test mental health literacy for maternal and paternal postnatal depression.

Mental health literacy refers to someone’s ability to identify and understand mental disorders as well as their symptoms.  

Participants were asked to analyze brief case studies featuring both men and women who, unbeknownst to the participants, were displaying signs of postnatal depression. After reviewing each case, the participants then indicated what, if anything, they thought was wrong with the man or woman in question.

Crying baby
As many as 13 percent of new parents suffer from postnatal depression.

Results

Regardless of their own genders, participants were almost 50 percent more likely to recognize the symptoms of postnatal depression in the female cases than in the male.

Participants frequently dismissed a male subject’s symptoms as stress or tiredness but reached a different conclusion for a female subject exhibiting identical symptoms.

Additionally, the participants seemed to sympathize more with female subjects than their male counterparts and “reported lower perceived distress towards the male case study's condition, believed that the male's condition would be easier to treat, expressed less sympathy for the male and were less likely to suggest that the male seek help.”

What the results mean

Following the study, the researchers concluded that there is “a gender binary in symptom recognition of postnatal depression, which highlights the need for greater awareness of paternal postnatal depression.”

Because of this gender binary, individuals are less likely to recognize postnatal depression in men, and men themselves are less likely to suspect that they are suffering from postnatal depression.

Signs of Paternal Postnatal Depression

Depression often manifests itself more covertly in men than in other demographics, possibly due to social constructs surrounding masculinity and displays of emotion.

A men sits with his head in his hands
About 1 in 4 men experience paternal postnatal depression.

The following are postnatal depression symptoms commonly found in men:

  • Increased anger or aggression toward others
  • More frequent use of alcohol or drugs
  • Persistent frustration or irritability
  • Violent behavior, impulses, or thoughts
  • Significant changes in weight
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Overwhelming feelings of stress or anxiety
  • Dangerous behavior or risk-taking
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies, and previously enjoyed activities
  • Working constantly
  • Fatigue
  • Inexplicable crying
  • Intense feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Treatment Options and Other Resources

As with any mental disorder, seeking help is the key to recovery.

Dads who think they may be suffering from postnatal depression can use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale as a means to test their symptoms.

Baby sleeping in a basket
Individuals whose partners are experiencing postnatal depression are more at risk for developing the disorder themselves.

Counseling is recommended to aid with coping with postnatal depression. Additionally, support groups may be helpful in dealing with postnatal depression, especially for men who feel isolated from their peers or loved ones.

Medication is also an option for patients whose symptoms do not improve with therapeutic treatment.

If you think you or your partner is suffering from postnatal depression, contact your primary care physician immediately.

Caring for a child, especially a newborn baby, is incredibly demanding and, as a result, can have a negative effect on your mental health.

Postnatal depression does not mean you do not love your child, nor does it mean you are a poor parent. However, because of the mental, possibly physical, impacts of the condition, postnatal depression can jeopardize your child’s safety and overall well-being.

While there is no cure for postnatal depression, it is certainly treatable.

Validate yourself and your symptoms: You deserve to get better. Don’t let gender get in the way of your recovery.

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