'I'm Not a Good Enough Dad.' Men Get Postpartum Depression Too

From TIME - November 8, 2017

Jarrid Wilson, a pastor and author in Nashville, was beyond excited when he learned that he and his wife were expecting their first child. Ive wanted to be a dad since I was little, Wilson says. But in the months after his son was born in 2015, he was overwhelmed with emotionsmany of them negative.

My wife had this immediate connection with this baby that had been in her womb, and for me I was just now meeting this child, and realizing that our entire life was changing, he says. It was a weird scenario because obviously I loved our baby, but there was a disconnect. I had all these thoughts that I dont deserve this, that Im not a good enough dad, that Ill never measure up.

Wilson says he withdrew from his wife and son, always worrying that he would do something wrong or somehow harm the baby. The new dad had struggled with depression after a traumatic injury in his teens, and he recognized the signs. When his son was about four months old, he reached out to a counselor.

We all need someone in our lives who can give us an unbiased opinion, and my counselor was able to help me grasp what was really going on, he says. Taking antidepressant medication also helped, as did his strong faith, and he has since shared his experience publicly in an effort to help other men. Earlier this year, Wilson appeared on an episode of TLCs Outdaughtered, to speak with the reality shows star, Adam Busby. Busbyfather to a 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old quintupletsrevealed on the show that he had also been struggling with paternal postpartum depression.

Although postpartum depression in men doesnt make the news (or the reality TV circuit) as often as it does in women, the illness is common among new parents. In fact, according to a new Swedish study, it likely affects more new dads than previous studies have estimated. And because new dads arent screened for depression the way new moms are, the authors say, they may be at higher risk of their condition going untreated.

The new study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, cites a 2016 meta-analysis that identified just over 8% of men as suffering from postpartum depression within the first year of a childs birth. Rates for women have been estimated at 13 to 19%, but according to the American Psychological Association, experts suspect the disease is still vastly underdiagnosed.

For men, the prevalence of paternal postpartum depression varies considerably from study to study, the authors note, and has even been reported as high as 25% in the three to six months after a babys birth. The fact that there is no universal assessment for postpartum depression in menand no consensus as to how, exactly, the condition should be definedlikely contributes to these discrepancies.

Many of the same factors that contribute to postpartum depression in women can also trigger it in men, experts sayincluding exhaustion, a dramatically changed lifestyle and increased demands on new parents time, energy and finances. Men also go through hormonal changes after becoming fathers, although not as significantly as women do.

Through interviews with 447 new fathers in Sweden, the researchers found that the standard postpartum depression questionnaire used for women did not capture symptoms that are especially common in men, such as irritation, restlessness, low stress tolerance and lack of self-control. On top of that, they note, most new dads arent screened for depression at all: In most countries, they are not even asked how they feel, says Elia Psouni, associate professor of developmental psychology at Lund University.


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