Limited sleep. Hours of stress. Weeks of feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing. As a new father, people will tell you to expect these things. You will be told to keep a look out for postpartum depression in your partner, however, rarely do they tell you that you might have to look out for it yourself.
The wave of depression, low mood, social isolation and loss of interest in pleasurable activities can overcome you suddenly and without much notice. The reality is that postpartum depression, or “daddy blues”, is real and should be taken seriously. Some of the more common symptoms used for diagnosing the daddy blues is derived from Major Depression.
These can include:
Too much sleep
Weight loss or weight gain
Feelings of hopelessness
Inability to concentrate
An aspect of postpartum depression in fathers is that the likelihood of experiencing depression like symptoms increases when your partner is suffering from postpartum depression as well. It is of much importance that you monitor for signs pertaining to postpartum depression in yourself if your partner is experiencing significant symptoms.
Depression and the Child
Postpartum depression in fathers can manifest in the parent/child relationship negatively. Often fathers will checkout from the family, become distant, irritable, and short tempered. Extreme cases may lead to chronic substance use or suicidal ideation. Extensive studies have shown that negative interactions with your child increase the likelihood of behavioral issues as the child ages.
What can you do?
The first step is to admit you’re suffering from postpartum depression. Fathers may have a natural reaction to close up and “tough-it out”, but this is counterproductive and often leads to bigger symptoms. Postpartum depression is not something you can work through with beer, sports or a gym session. To be an effective and good father, you have to own your stuff and take care of yourself. The most effective way to do this is to engage in talk therapy.
Many fathers have discovered the wonders of talk therapy. Having the opportunity to talk to someone in a safe space can give you the tools to counteract the depression and give you a new perspective. You can use this space to create goals, share successes or vent frustrations. Just like you go to the gym, the bar or the barbershop, talk therapy can be a highly effective self-care activity for new fathers. Having a child is a period of great excitement for many fathers. You typically start out by wanting to be the best dad and partner possible. Having the “daddy blues” does not make you a bad father. A father’s active role in their mental health before it becomes out of hand can make you an extraordinary father. You owe it to yourself to lay a solid foundation for the healthy and successful development of your relationship with your child and that child’s well-being.
If you are a father who is ready to take step and receive support for your mental health and be present in your journey of fatherhood, please click here for a free brief phone consultation.
Jesus A. Robles, LCSW
Mental Health Therapist