If you would like to know how depression in fathers is defined, read What Explains Paternal Depression?
Men are very different from women when it comes time to look for signs of depression. Men will not necessarily be sad or isolate themselves like with most women in the same situation. Women often express themselves with emotions, through their experiences, verbalising what they feel. Men do so more through actions.
Behavioural changes are often the first sign. Men can be more irritable, aggressive and overreact to silly things. They can even become hostile. Or they may flee. They will work around the clock, do intense physical activity (which they never did before), or will use drugs or alcohol (substance abuse), to flee their heavy reality.
These signs often mask a feeling of insecurity, poor self-esteem about their ability to become or be a good father. Yes, men can isolate themselves, but evidence seems to show that they can experience deep internal suffering even if they are men and didn’t give birth.
Preventing Paternal Depression
To prevent paternal depression when a baby arrives, you have to look to protective factors even before conceiving the baby. Take time for yourself, think about who you are, do things you like, and communicate with your partner. A satisfying and full relationship with your partner helps both of you get through the stage of becoming parents with less turmoil. Help each other, share responsibility, talk and listen to each other about what you are experiencing. This will lighten the load and ease adaption to a new role.
Taking care of your self and the couple and having friends and family that support you can be only positive. Hang out with other men that you appreciate and who can guide you as you develop your father figure role. This is all very helpful and can prevent the appearance of paternal depression. Healthy lifestyle habits, a balanced work-family life, proper diet, proper sleep, time with the family and support network – these are also important helpful factors.
When the baby arrives, you need to have father-baby time to create a link and develop a close relationship. Make sure that this time is special, reserved for only the two of you. Father-child attachment develops through repeated contact. If their actions are seen as appropriate by others, men will feel more skilled, proud and satisfied.
To learn more about help for fathers, read There’s Help for Fathers Too! (french only)