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How fathers can deal with postpartum depression and anxiety disorders

You are likely to assume at least some things about fatherhood – maybe that it is full of joy and love, and at least initially sleep deprived. What you probably don’t know This tenth father will have perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) – such as postpartum depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – after becoming a father.

Makes sense. The lessons we teach boys and men about vulnerability go something like this: Don’t be vulnerable; It’s an opposite of strength, explains Daniel Singley, Ph.D., a San Diego-based psychologist and director of the Center for Men’s Excellence, which studies postpartum mood disorders in men. The summary of what society teaches men about fatherhood? That it’s about providing and protecting.

“Part of the harm we do to men is teaching them that mental health problems and vulnerability are wrong. that they get weaker, ”says Singley.

We also often talk about PMADs in the context of women. About one in seven young mothers experiences one. And because of this, many men believe that only a mother’s needs matter. “It’s harmful to men because it clearly says, ‘You and your health are secondary,” adds Singley.

Of course they are not. And while no one doubts the massive physical and emotional transition to motherhood – carrying a baby, delivering the baby, and recovering from the process – your health as a new father matters. And taking care of it is perhaps the best thing you can do for your family: “Research shows that men’s wellbeing can affect the health of the entire family. Both mother and baby are more likely to thrive when a father adapts positively to parenting, ”says Dr. Darby Saxbe, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern California.

Providing also begins with giving something back to yourself. “The most important type of care that fathers can offer is not to turn the lights on, but to give their families the best, healthiest versions of themselves,” says Saxbe.

And since no car with apartments can drive well, here’s how to identify and combat worrying symptoms in the chaos of new parenting.

Who gets postpartum mood and anxiety disorders?

The short answer: everyone. Sure, there are racial and inequalities in access to resources and care, as well as cultural prejudice, but PMADs have been identified in every culture, age, income level, and ethnicity.

However, there are risk factors that could predispose you to one. A biggie? A family or individual history of depression, anxiety, or trauma, says Singley.

High levels of stress, lack of social support, and sleep disorders, which are essentially inevitable as a new parent, are also risk factors, according to Saxbe.

In the postpartum period, Singley also says that a major risk factor for fathers to develop depression is having a depressed partner, which makes social support a crucial part of wellbeing.

“New fathers sometimes feel unsure how to bond with the baby and are less able to help with baby care. This can also be a unique risk factor for men, ”adds Saxbe.

Could you have a PMAD?

Let’s start with something simple: It’s normal to struggle with adapting to parenting. It’s a big one – probably the biggest.

Experts tend to explain that mood problems go from struggling to adjust to potentially greater mood and anxiety disorder when symptoms occur frequently (You often notice them during the day), Long lasting (this has been the case for more than a few weeks) and violently (Thoughts, worries, or emotions interfere with your ability to do your job or spend time with your family).

“Some of the classic signs of PMADs, in both men and women, are feelings of sadness or worry, an inability to enjoy activities that are normally enjoyable, socially withdrawn, and changes in sleep, energy levels, and appetite. ” says Saxbe.

These signs of PMADs tend to be more specific to men too, experts say:

  • Anger, frustration, or irritability. PMADs don’t always show up as sadness or fear, and many men report these symptoms instead.
  • Physical manifestations of stress. You may notice muscle tension, headaches, stomach problems, or clenching your jaw more than usual.
  • Isolation and withdrawal. Remember: you can be withdrawn while still around people, says Singley. “The question here is not, ‘Are you physically in the presence of other people,’ but ‘Are you still connecting with people? ‘”
  • Substance use. “It’s not just drinking or drug use,” says Singley. “I think of it more broadly as an increase in ‘dopaminergic’ behaviors such as doing risky things, cheating, or playing more video games.”

How to feel better

PMADs can be overwhelming, burdensome, and confusing, but when addressed, they are also very treatable. If you think you are suffering, start here:

  • Treat new parents like a marathon. “The transition to parenting is an important change that can improve your identity and your social relationships. So be patient with yourself and don’t expect this to automatically be a fun or easy experience, ”says Saxbe. Caring for a newborn is exhausted. So emphasize rest (sleep, exercise, healthy eating) whenever you can, she says.
  • Form a team. Parenthood is not a solo sport. “Babies should be raised by a community, not isolated from individuals,” says Saxbe. That means you have to get really comfortable asking for help and using that help. Can’t you run your usual errands? In dire need of a homemade meal that is anything but PB&J? Do you speak.
  • Work with someone who knows what they’re talking about. Communicating how you are feeling is important – to a clergyman, a trusted colleague, or your partner. However, when you find a trained psychologist who specializes in perinatal mood problems, you are working with someone who understands your situation and provides you with the tools and techniques you need to feel better about yourself. Postpartum Support Internationalon the one hand has a Provider directory with psychologists around the world. If you ever think of suicide, reach out to us. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is available around the clock.
  • Be open to medication. In addition to all of this, drugs can be helpful in treating PMADs, Saxbe says. Your doctor can best help you address your particular situation and what may be most beneficial to you.

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