Male Postnatal Depression – symptoms
by Tina Juhl
January 17th 2007
last updated January 17th 2007
Male Postnatal Depression – symptoms
Men’s symptoms of postnatal depression are very much like those of women. The reactions can vary from severe crisis-reactions over anxiety and depression to thought disorders. But the course of the illness may vary tremendously from person to person.
The traditional symptoms (originally related to women) are:
• Lack of joy
• Lack of interest and energy
• Feelings of self-blame
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Feeling sad or miserable
• Thoughts of self-harm
These symptoms also apply to men suffering from postnatal depression – and to depression in general. But postnatal depression is different in the sense that the thoughts, feelings, reactions, and symptoms are related to parenthood. They are expressed both in relation to oneself and in relation to the infant.
Despite the fact that many men and women show the same symptoms of postnatal depression, some men show different symptoms. These symptoms may also appear in women, but their frequency is higher in men. These are symptoms, which have previously failed to be accepted as depressive symptoms and research into this topic still has a long way to go. The following symptoms - often referred to as male depressive syndrome or masked depression - are increasingly becoming acknowledged:
• Lowered stress-threshold
• Increase in aggression and outward-reacting behaviour, problems with self-control
• Feeling burnt-out and empty
• Irritability, restlessness and frustration
The above-mentioned Danish study has shown that it appears to be highly relevant to integrate these male depression symptoms into postnatal depression-assessment for fathers. This is due to the fact that some fathers’ depressions will not be observed if these symptoms are neglected. The fact that men’s psychological conditions do affect their children (read more: link to an article from the Lancet) and not least concern for the father/infant relationship makes it clear that every father suffering from mood disorders in this vulnerable period should be found and offered help.
Following the Danish study the media focused on fathers and mood disorders. This led to a greater awareness of the possibility that men may display different symptoms to women and made it possible for people, either by themselves or through a professional, to realize that they might be in need of help:
A couple whose baby was in the 33rd week of gestation asked to see a psychologist because of the father’s reactions: He was afraid of developing postnatal depression. He was experiencing feelings of aggression and was over-working and feeling irritable. They came for two sessions before and one after the birth of their child. Talking about their expectations, fears and ideas of becoming parents in combination with receiving practical advice related to their everyday life improved the father’s condition. After the birth the parents no longer feared postnatal depression.
Besides demonstrating a case with less traditional symptoms this story also illustrates the importance and value of early intervention.
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