Everyone knows that depression can hit new mothers, but a new study shows that fathers, too, can be debilitated by this brain disease. The Journal of American Medical Association found that two in ten men can be victims to paternal postnatal depression, twice the rate among men in general.
Depression was higher among dads within the first 3-6 months after the baby’s birth, and showed a positive link to maternal depression, JAMA said after collating data from 43 studies of 28,000 men. Between one and three mothers in ten suffer from postnatal depression.
Montclair-based dad and writer, Joel Schwartzberg, talks about his own depression in a collection of essays on fatherhood titled, The 40-Year-Old Version, in interviews and an essay in Newsweek.
Schwartzberg, who is divorced and has a 10-year-old son and 7-year-old twin daughters, spoke to Barista Kids about when he first realized he had a problem.
“At first, I thought I just thought I had a faulty fatherhood gene. I couldn’t will myself to be happy – because willpower is a casualty of depression. All I could think about was “where did my life go? Years later, after writing about it for Newsweek and for The 40-Year-Old Version, I found a doctor who basically said, “I think you were depressed.””
Indeed, the pressures of new parenthood coupled with his emotional turmoil were such that they took a toll on Schwartzberg’s marriage.
“The depression definitely put a strain on my first marriage and was a factor in the divorce, ” he said. “But the divorce was more an effect of each of us detaching from the basic commitment of marriage. I’m actually a better father now as a result of the divorce, which is another theme of the book.”
Schwartzberg said that until that doctor suggested he might have been suffering from depression, he never knew what had hit him.
“Until that moment, I would have been as scornful about the idea of “male post-partum depression” as anyone else,” he said.
So, sans treatment, Schwartzberg’s recovery was a process that unraveled with time.
“I eventually came out of my depression as my body adjusted to the rhythm of parenthood and my children matured, exhibiting enough unique characteristics to transform them from oozy blobs of pure need to one-of-a-kind, beautiful human beings I helped create.”
Depression is a serious illness involving the brain, and in most cases can be overcome with treatment and with counseling, though many people don’t realize they are depressed and don’t seek help. If you think you may be depressed, talk to your doctor soon.
Some Signs of Depression:
- Persistent sad, anxiety, or feelings of emptiness
- Hopelessness or pessimism
- Guilt, worthlessness
- Little interest in hobbies
- Decreased energy and libido
- Memory and concentration difficulties
- Inability to make decisions
- Inability to will oneself to feel better, to do things
- Trouble sleeping, early waking, or oversleeping
- Changes in appetite and/or weight.
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability
- Physical symptoms persist, like headaches, digestive disorders or chronic pain