Postnatal Depression is only clinically defined for women
PPND or Paternal Postnatal Depression hits one in five men after they become fathers. It’s quite a startling statistic and one that could possibly be higher as men are less likely to be as open as women in sharing their feelings.
In terms of depression – in general – if you’re a man, you’re more likely than a woman to try to hide your depression or to withdraw from others. This only worsens your symptoms. As for PPND, some research suggests that it develops more gradually in men over the course of the child’s first year than postpartum depression develops in women.
Postnatal depression in men is more common among those who have been diagnosed with depression before, or whose partners are also suffering from postnatal depression. And it’s more common in first-time fathers.
Having a new baby is a huge change, involving physical exhaustion and extra worries. It can be particularly difficult to balance the demands of work and fatherhood, especially as you might feel under pressure to earn more while your partner is not able to work.
Researchers are also beginning to discover that men often experience depression in ways that are different from women. Men sometimes cope with their symptoms in different ways too. These findings might help explain why even trained mental health professionals frequently overlook or misdiagnose men’s depression.
To better understand men’s depression, it’s useful to look at both the classic symptoms of depression and symptoms that may be specific to men.
Classic Symptoms of Depression
- Depressed, sad mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Trouble sleeping or over-sleeping
- Restless feelings and inability to sit still or slow down
- Fatigue, loss of energy, or tired all the time
- Worthless or guilty feelings
- Impaired concentration and difficulty making decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
To be diagnosed with depression, a person must be experiencing five or more of these symptoms, including either depressed mood or loss of interest, over a two-week period. These symptoms must also be causing significant distress and interfering with the person’s social, work or academic functioning.
One of the problems with this classic diagnosis of depression is that researchers are beginning to recognize that men often don’t acknowledge feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or guilt. Researchers – and clinicians specializing in helping men – are also beginning to recognize symptoms of depression that seem to be unique to men.
Symptoms of Men’s Depression
- Increased anger and conflict with others
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- Frustration or irritability
- Violent behavior
- Losing weight without trying
- Isolation from family and friends
- Being easily stressed
- Impulsiveness and taking risks, like reckless driving and extramarital sex
- Feeling discouraged
- Increases in complaints about physical problems
- Ongoing physical symptoms, like headaches, digestion problems or pain
- Problems with concentration and motivation
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies and sex
- Working constantly
- Frustration or irritability
- Misuse of prescription medication
- Increased concerns about productivity and functioning at school or work
- Experiencing conflict between how you think you should be as a man and how you actually are
- Thoughts of suicide
A man who’s depressed won’t experience all these symptoms. Some men experience only a few of them, while others experience many. And how bad these symptoms get also varies among men – and over time.
What Can You Do?
- Don’t try to ignore these feelings and soldier on.
- And don’t resort to drink, drugs or burying yourself in work in an attempt to cope – this is a short-term fix and will do more harm than good in the long run.
- Remember that your health is important to your partner, to your baby, and for his/her development.
- Seek help from the start: don’t wait to be asked by a health professional, such as your family health visitor or GP, about how well you’re feeling or coping.
- You’re more likely to recover quickly if you can acknowledge the problem and actively seek a solution. Consider asking for support or practical help from family or friends or consulting your GP.
The important thing to know about these symptoms, and about men’s depression, is that they’re treatable. You don’t have to continue suffering from them. And although it’s a very serious – and sometimes life-threatening – condition, you can recover from depression.
You wouldn’t continue to walk on a broken ankle forever. Don’t continue to suffer from depression any longer. Get help now.