My name is Ben, and I watch Desperate Housewives. Quite a big fan, in fact. Of course, it has everything to do with the intricate storylines and absolutely nothing to do with often scantily-clad and highly attractive women. Seriously, it's the storylines...honest.
OK, I admit it: you got me. However, between ogling Eva Longoria and fantasising about living in a house as big as those on Wisteria Lane, one sub-plot has arisen in the past few weeks that I've noticed. It concerns a new father in the show, Tom Scavo, who - after the birth of his latest child - began feeling a bit low. Eventually, he goes to the doctors to be diagnosed with what he thinks will be exhaustion. Instead, it turns out he has male postnatal depression or PND.
I can almost hear mothers around the globe scoffing as they read that. "Postnatal depression?!" they exclaim, "But only mums get that! What will you men want next, periods?!"
I can confidently answer on behalf of all men when I say: no, thanks, we don't want periods. But postnatal depression in men is real, so stop being mean!
What are the Symptoms of PND?
Admittedly, it's not as common in men as it is in women – with around 1 in 25 fathers demonstrating the symptoms of PND, compared to 1 in 10 for mothers; but the effects are no less detrimental to the health and mindset of the affected dad. The symptoms exhibited differ from person to person, but are largely identical to those shown by mothers: a sense of being overwhelmed and isolated, perhaps a lack of concentration (although that was probably something evident even before you had kids). Appetite is often affected, and time that is usually taken up with sleep is instead spent worrying.
The list of symptoms is comprehensive, and studies into male PND conclude that men are more likely to become hostile and aggressive in response to the symptoms they are experiencing as they struggle to come to terms with the radical life changes that they are going through. That's just how we react to things, as our tiny man brains can't understand what's going on.
What are the signs of postnatal depression in men? And what are the effects?
Post natal depression can leave the father feeling useless and overwhelmed, and as a result there is a risk that he can become very introvert and withdrawn. This not only impacts the health of the father, but also has a negative effect on the development of his baby, who relies upon regular stimulation and interaction from both parents in order to boost cognitive function.
In 2008, a study entitled 'The Children of the 90s' by the University of Bristol found that post natal depression in fathers can have long-lasting psychological effects on their children. Their findings have been released in two parts: the first, published in 2005, concluded that boys born to depressed fathers are twice as likely as their peers to develop behavioural problems by the age of three and a half.
The second half of this study elaborates on this, and suggests that these complications can continue into early adulthood. Paul Ramchandani, an Oxford University psychiatrist, is quoted in the results of the research as stating "conduct problems at this age are strongly predictive of later serious conduct problems, increased criminality and significantly increased societal costs."
Basically, if a dad has PND and it goes untreated, his kid could go on to be the next Al Capone.
How can PND be overcome?
There are a number of ways in which depression can be overcome – or, at the very least, managed to the extent that the effects are minimal. Health professionals encourage affected dads to not shy away from the problem, or assume that it is simply the result of a lack of sleep.
They also, of course, warn against turning to drink or drugs as a way of alleviating the symptoms of PND; both mother and baby rely on the health of the father for development and support. Although we do enjoy a beer from time to time, going completely tee-total would be a tad excessive.
Approaching a health professional is the best course of action, but takes courage, especially as some fathers feel that doing so would in some way compromise their masculinity. However, it is the best thing to do, and dads suffering from PND will find relief and support in being able to share their stories with others going through a similar situation.
So don't be mean to us if we seem a bit down following the birth of a child, or refer to us as a "big girl's blouse". Instead, tell us to put down the Jack Daniels and see a doctor. It could be the difference between your kids growing up to be Same Difference or Bonnie and Clyde.
Ben writes a daddy blog called Goodbye Pert Breasts.
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