While a lack of sleep is probably the biggest culprit when it comes depression among new dads, other possible causes include a history of the disease, a dad's rocky relationship with his partner, financial problems or stress, and a sick, colicky, or premature baby. Men who’ve experienced the loss of loved ones—either in the adult years prior to becoming a parent or while growing up—are also at increased risk for depression.
Remember, mom: you’re not the only one who’s got a lot on her plate with your newborn; many fathers are anxious and stressed about their new responsibilities, as well.
“We’re expecting fathers to be more involved in parenting than ever before, but most dads report being unprepared,” says Dr. Courtenay. “So while most dads want to be involved, they don’t really know what that looks like…and many new dads are uncertain about what to do. That uncertainty can quickly lead to anxiety, and we know that anxiety postpartum often leads to depression.”
Know the Symptoms
Postpartum depression is different from the Daddy Blues, which many new dads can experience, says Dr. Courtenay. “With normal stress or the Daddy Blues, a guy’s going to feel better when he gets a little extra sleep, goes to the gym, or has lunch with a friend. But with depression, these things won’t make him feel better. The symptoms are more severe and last longer. If the ‘blues’ last more than two or three weeks, it’s probably depression—and a man should get help from a mental health professional who specializes in working with men. Untreated depression only worsens.”
“A lot of times men may withdraw by working more, playing sports, and doing things to avoid what’s going on,” says Dr. Hibbert. She says other symptoms might include low or no energy, feeling unmotivated, and experiencing changes in weight and appetite or sleep.
“[With men] there’s lot more risk for alcohol or substance use, and they might experience physical symptoms—internalizing their depression and it comes out as headaches or stomach problems,” says Dr. Hibbert. There’s also more of a risk of violent or impulsive behavior. Men tend to not want to talk about it and acknowledge that [this is happening] so that internal stress can come out as violence or anger, she says.