Anxiety and depression among new dads is not uncommon, a Priory psychiatrist said amid new research showing thousands of men experiencing anxiety – and in some cases depression – as they enter fatherhood
“I think the big issue for men is to take their stress and low feelings seriously and be able to recognize it’s really happening and they are not alone,” said Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, clinical director of the Priory’s Wellbeing Centre in Harley Street, central London.
“Men often feel anxious and out of control and sometimes they can feel empty as well as side-lined when it comes to emotional support after having children, as they worry about managing on a single income, pressures on their relationship, bonding with their child, and all the while having to cope with seriously disturbed sleep.”
The Priory Group, which runs the largest independent network of mental healthcare hospitals and clinics in the UK, is calling for greater recognition of the emotional issues faced by new dads. Its Harley Street clinic has a family servicewhich treats Paternal Post Natal Depression among other mental health issues.
In the run-up to International Men’s Day, Priory’s research found that around one in 10 men say they have negative thoughts after having children, and more than one in three (39%) experienced some anxieties.
One in 15 men believed they were actually suffering from Paternal Post Natal Depression, although only 2% were officially diagnosed.
Two in five men (42%) who experienced depression or anxieties did not seek help, saying they were too embarrassed and ‘thought they should be happy’.
Nearly 70% of men felt there was ‘still a stigma’ around PND, saying society might view those who suffered from it as ‘inadequate’ parents.
Nearly half of men and women (47%) said there was not enough support for new fathers experiencing difficulties adjusting to parenthood, and nearly 80% of men and women said fathers were ‘forgotten’ in discussions about PND
According to researchers, paternal postnatal depression (PPND) affects around one in 10 fathers, and its effects on the dad can be as devastating as that suffered by women. The BBC recently interviewed men who talked openly and honestly about their own experiences of postnatal depression.
Dr van Zwanenberg said she was calling for fuller recognition of the condition, and more campaigning to help show fathers that it is OK to admit they are not coping with the birth of a new child, and to get support.
Signs of PND might include a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood, a lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world, feeling tired all the time and difficulty bonding with your baby.
“Parental depression can have a serious impact on children’s behaviour and development so it’s vital we widen access to help for it. We must also support those men who are most vulnerable, such as young fathers,” said Dr van Zwanenberg.
Stress of a new baby – including disturbed sleep, change in responsibility and added pressure on the relationship, including financial pressure and housing pressures – can trigger depression in some men.
“There are lots of factors which can contribute to depression – worries about your new responsibilities, your loss of freedom, money worries and worries about managing on a single income, worrying whether you will be a good father, and, if your wife has PND, you might feel more prone to depression too. Men aren’t always encouraged to talk about their feelings or share their fears.
“Unfortunately, bottling up your emotions or trying to lose yourself in drink or work actually increases stress. Although it may be hard at first, try to talk to your partner. Talk about the changes in your lives and see if you can find ways to support each other. You could try talking to a family member or friend about anything that’s worrying you. You’re more likely to get a clearer perspective and the support you need to feel better if you talk to a professional. If you have serious depression you may:
- feel exhausted and anxious
- be obsessed with finances
- begin to withdraw from your family
- be irritable or intolerant
- sleep badly.”