Research has shown that statistically men can be as equally affected as women, and that young Dads are at most risk a few years into fatherhood. However, the idea that Dads can suffer is perhaps less out there and under the radar, and so it’s much harder to discuss. There is some research into same sex and adoptive parents that say that postpartum depression can strike too. So this suggests that it’s about changing roles, and responsibilities, as well as lack of sleep and exercise or normal routine. Increase in responsibility can feel overwhelming in young families and self-doubts can creep in. Financial pressure if you are now the sole earner can add to the mix, especially in low earners. If your relationship was previously or is currently strained this can also add to mood changes. If you already have suffered with depression then you may be more likely to be depressed now, on the other hand you have experience in what to look out for and what works to recover. Nipping the first signs in the bud are crucial. The thing is, men traditionally have a tendency to carry on hoping all will pass. When it doesn’t, it gets far worse down the line and trickier to overcome. It will affect not only you but your partner and your ability to function as usual.
So what are the signs…remember this is a huge change and sleep deprivation can play havoc. Erratic sleep patterns are also an indicator of mood change. This is a short list and is not that different from depression. The main factor is how it impacts on you as a father and that it has arisen because of becoming one.
Low motivation to do anything/disinterest in the things you usually like to do.
Over or under eating/poor appetite.
Feeling guilty, about not loving baby enough/ feeling low/believing you are inadequate in some way.
Irritability, or feeling very anxious/panic attacks. Maybe feeling angry.
Poor concentration/being very indecisive.
Physical symptoms like headache or aches and pains.
Negative and unhelpful thinking… this is likely to add to the lowering of mood and start a vicious cycle: negative thoughts leading to low mood, then feeling guilty about low mood and so on.
So what to do….seek help as soon as you feel things are not what they have been for you mood wise. Get your own support from family and friends. Talk with your partner about ensuring sleep becomes a priority for you both and get a rota going. Get some exercise and make sure you get out in the daylight every day. Eat well, and ask for help in getting meals sorted if you are struggling. Make sure you see your GP, and if need be they will help you seek professional help.
If you feel this is not for you, a very practical approach is to get books to help.
‘Feeling Good’ by David Burns, is CBT based (cognitive behavioural therapy)
‘The Mindful Way through Depression’ by Mark Williams and John Teasdale.
Of course you can do all of the above, quite often tackling mood issues from different angles can work very well.