Depression Symptoms in New Fathers
When men become depressed they do not always recognize the symptoms for what they are. If they do, they are less likely than women to seek help or to want to talk about their feelings. Even those close to the person might not piece the issues together simply because the person may not appear depressed. More noticeable perhaps are the signs that things are different. For example they may notice:
- Flashpoints of anger.
- General irritability.
- Hitting out at inanimate objects.
- Grumpiness and aggression.
- Storming out and more time being spent alone.
- Work suffering and loss of concentration.
- More time spent worrying about things.
- More physical complaints.
- Less time spent on personal grooming.
- Sleep problems.
- Lack of interest in sex.
- Changes in diet.
There doesn't appear to be such a thing as male depression but the way men react to depression can be different. Even then, the behaviors some men engage in such as drinking alcohol, doing risky sports, gambling, etc., are frequently viewed as ‘male' and may therefore be passed over.
As depression in men is becoming better understood so its effects on others is being revealed. A recent report from the University of Michigan found depressed fathers are four times more likely to spank their children. Depressed fathers are less likely to interact with their children and engage in activities such as reading stories.
New fathers also appear prone to depression. In fact as many as 1 in 10 new fathers go through a period of depression following the birth of a child. There are a variety of possible reasons for this but they include sleep disruptions, dramatic changes in role and a perhaps a sense of rejection due to the focus of attention on the new baby. The worrying aspect is the fact that smacking a child under or around the age of 1 is especially dangerous. Very young infants are fragile and will not be able to form any connection between why they are being smacked.
What sometimes confuses the issue is the fact that depressed dads do not necessarily reject their children. In fact many report playing with their children, looking after them when they get back from work and generally helping out more at home. Their experience however is often one of reaching a tipping point of intolerance quite rapidly. Some feel an urge to smack but manage to hold back whilst others give in. Comparatively little is known about depression in new dads but the implications for them and their families is such that some form of screening for depression in men could and perhaps should, be undertaken during pediatric visits.
R. N. Davis, M. M. Davis, G. L. Freed, S. J. Clark. Fathers' Depression Related to Positive and Negative Parenting Behaviors With 1-Year-Old Children. Pediatrics, 2011; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-1779