Men Experience Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Too
The transition to parenthood can be a challenging time for many, including dads. In recent years, awareness and discussions surrounding the importance of perinatal mental health and screening for things like postpartum depression and anxiety has been growing, but these conversations and screening measures are still mainly focused on the experience of mothers. However, perinatal mental health is a men’s issue too. In fact, according to Postpartum Support International, 1 in 10 dads will develop postpartum depression and up to 18% will develop anxiety disorder at some point during their partner’s pregnancy or the first year postpartum.
The good news is, by drawing awareness to the issue, recognizing the risk factors and symptoms, reducing the stigma, and seeking out the right support, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders among men are treatable.
Father figures are taking a more active role in parenting
Thanks to societal changes, opportunities to work from home, and gay couples being more free to adopt of have children via surrogate, men are becoming far more actively involved in parenting than in years past. This is wonderful for dad and the other primary caregiver and baby, but it does mean that men are more susceptible to postpartum depression and anxiety.
The evolving role of dads means men often lack this “involved father” role model. They don’t have an experience of how this should look! This can lead to stress, self-doubt, and uncertainty. Below are a few extra risk factors that men and their partners can be mindful of.
Risk factors for men’s postpartum depression and anxiety
- Individual or familial history of mental health disorders or substance abuse
- Lack of social and emotional support
- Having a partner who is suffering from a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder
- Barriers to fatherhood involvement (blended families, work-life balance, socialization and the idea of mother as primary parent).
- Socio-economic struggles
- Experience of racism or other forms of discrimination
- Societal expectations that men should be emotionally strong and independent and the stigma around seeking mental health support.
Postpartum depression and anxiety may look different with men
Common perinatal mood disorder symptoms for men
Here are some symptoms of men strugging with mental health issues after becoming a dad:
- Increased anger, aggressiveness, and irritability
- Withdrawing from people or activities they used to enjoy
- Sleep problems
- Substance abuse
- Lack of focus and difficulty making decisions
- Physical symptoms such as fatigue, stomach issues, and pain
- Changes in diet, overeating or decreased appetite
Support for Fathers
If you or someone you know is a struggling dad, know that there is support available. Encourage dad to speak to his primary care physician as the first point of contact. There are more options as well for fathers who are struggling, such as talk therapy, group counseling, local publicly run agencies, and/or medication.
The most important thing if you are a guy or know a man struggling, you are not alone and there is help available.
For more support resources visit: https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/help-for-dads/