Dear Mr. Dad: I have a 2-week old baby boy, and I’m crazy about him. But I’ve suddenly started feeling really anxious, stressed, irritable, and sometimes even angry. My girlfriend says I could be suffering from male postpartum depression. I’ve never heard of guys getting postpartum depression, is it possible? If so, what can I do about it?
A: Your girlfriend is absolutely right. Most of us have heard of new moms experiencing the “baby blues,” or actual postpartum depression, but few acknowledge that paternal postpartum depression is just as real. In fact, quite a few people ridicule the idea. It’s wonderful that your girlfriend is not one of them.
According to Will Courtenay, a psychotherapist specializing in male postpartum depression, as many as 1 in 4 new dads experience the kinds of symptoms you mentioned, in the days, weeks, and even months after the birth of a child. Unfortunately, men rarely discuss their feelings or ask for help, especially during a time when they’re supposed to “be there” for the new mom. One big problem is that men and women express depression differently. Women tend to get tearful, men get angry or withdraw from their family and retreat to the office. Because depression—including the postpartum kind—is usually seen as affecting women more than men, many mental health professionals don’t recognize the symptoms, or write them off as normal adjustment to the challenges of new parenthood.