PND in men

It can hap­pen

Your Pregnancy - - Contents - BY LISA LAZARUS

When James held his daugh­ter for the first time, he knew he wanted to give his lit­tle girl the world. Sud­denly, work took on a whole new mean­ing. He needed that pro­mo­tion now that he had to pro­vide fi­nan­cially for his larger fam­ily. The bur­den was in­tense and he took to work­ing long hours away from home. The pres­sure, com­bined with the sleep­less nights of par­ent­ing, even­tu­ally broke him. He be­came ir­ri­ta­ble and anx­ious, and his li­bido de­clined un­til it was nonex­is­tent. Was he suf­fer­ing from male PND? It’s more than likely. A study in The Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion re­ports 10 per­cent of men suf­fer from pre­na­tal and post­par­tum de­pres­sion. And, that num­ber climbs in the three- to six­month post­par­tum pe­riod. De­pres­sion, the study found, has a greater prob­a­bil­ity of oc­cur­ring if the mother also ex­pe­ri­ences PND.

WHAT ELSE CAUSES PND IN MEN?

There are other risk fac­tors that are more likely to pre­dis­pose men to PND. Linda Lewis, a re­search psy­chol­o­gist who spe­cialises in the area of post­na­tal dis­tress and au­thor of the book When Your Bless­ings Don’t Count: A Guide to Recog­nis­ing and Treat­ing Post­na­tal Dis­tress (Metz, 2011), men­tions the fol­low­ing fac­tors: Is the re­la­tion­ship be­tween you and your part­ner strained? Was this an unplanned preg­nancy? Are there fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties? The onus of be­ing the sole bread­win­ner can, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, be very daunt­ing to men. Have you pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced de­pres­sion? Even though the risk fac­tors of PND in men are fairly well known, the di­ag­no­sis is tricky to make.

IT’S NOT SO SIM­PLE

The prob­lem, ex­plains Linda, is that men don’t re­port them­selves as feel­ing de­pressed. They’ll use words like stressed, over­whelmed, and frus­trated, but not the lan­guage that’s com­monly as­so­ci­ated with de­pres­sion. Re­search has also shown that de­pres­sion man­i­fests dif­fer­ently in men than it does in women: When feel­ing de­pressed, women are more likely to ru­mi­nate – re­hash­ing and dwelling on neg­a­tive feel­ings. Men seem bet­ter able to dis­tract them­selves when feel­ing down. Men are more likely to abuse al­co­hol and other sub­stances to med­i­cate them­selves prior to de­pres­sion set­ting in. Men also have a ten­dency to mask their de­pressed feel­ings by us­ing out­lets such as TV, sports, ex­ces­sive work­ing, or en­gag­ing in risky be­hav­iour (such as gam­bling, smok­ing, un­safe sex, etc). Men are likely to ex­hibit anger and ir­ri­tabil­ity when de­pressed, rather than sad­ness. Be­cause the symp­toms of de­pres­sion in men tend to go on for longer pe­ri­ods with­out di­ag­no­sis or treat­ment, they are more likely to com­mit sui­cide than women. Even when they en­counter psy­cho­log­i­cal help for de­pres­sion, men have a greater ten­dency to project their feel­ings onto their part­ners. “So, they might say things like, ‘ You’re not cop­ing and that’s why I’m not cop­ing. If you were okay, I’d be fine’. This pro­tects men from con­fronting what they’re feel­ing,” says Linda. There is a fur­ther prob­lem when it comes to di­ag­nos­ing PND in fa­thers. It’s dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish the in­evitable re­sults of those early months of child-rear­ing from the symp­toms of de­pres­sion. Au­thor of the book Sad Dad: An Ex­plo­ration of Post­na­tal De­pres­sion in Fa­thers, Olivia Spencer says, “PND in men is dif­fi­cult to di­ag­nose. Of course dis­turbed sleep, lack of en­ergy, loss of ap­petite and even feel­ings of guilt are all part and par­cel of car­ing for a new baby. But they can also be symp­toms of de­pres­sion in both moth­ers and fa­thers.” Craig Wilkin­son is the au­thor of a lo­cal in­spi­ra­tional book on fa­ther­hood, Dad – The Power and Beauty of Au­then­tic Fa­ther­hood ( thedad­book.co.za) and the on­line course The Dad Jour­ney. He ad­vises new dads to be very aware of their emo­tions, to com­mu­ni­cate openly, to de­velop a good sup­port net­work and to in­cor­po­rate fam­ily time and me-time into their daily lives. “Per­haps the big­gest chal­lenge for new dads is ad­just­ing to a life where

your time, space, money and wife are no longer just yours, but have been in­vaded by a very de­mand­ing bun­dle of joy and chaos. Un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances, many dads can feel un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated and tired,” he says.

WHAT TO DO?

It’s very im­por­tant that both moms and dads ap­proach the birth of their ba­bies and the first few months of life with the right mind­set to help guard against post­na­tal de­pres­sion. But should you feel you meet the signs of PND (see be­low), its im­per­a­tive that you seek help from a pro­fes­sional or con­sult a sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tion like the Post Natal De­pres­sion Sup­port As­so­ci­a­tion ( pndsa.org.za). “Men need to un­der­stand that some­thing is go­ing to give when you have a child,” says Linda. So be­fore things get mired too deeply in the mists of PND, bear in mind that things won’t be the same as they were be­fore and it’s okay not to be in con­trol all the time. There may be a de­gree to which you feel ex­cluded from the mother- child bond, es­pe­cially if she’s ex­clu­sively breast­feed­ing. Sex­ual in­ti­macy, at least for the time be­ing, is likely to drop. Plus, the emo­tional con­nec­tion with your “de­mand­ing bun­dle of joy and chaos” might not be plain sail­ing. Un­like women, you’re sud­denly in­tro­duced to a new per­son who you haven’t car­ried for the past nine months, but who de­pends on you nonethe­less. And moms, be care­ful not to fa­cil­i­tate feel­ings of in­com­pe­tence in your baby’s fa­ther. Moms fre­quently want men to look af­ter the baby on their terms and this doesn’t aid the man in es­tab­lish­ing his own rap­port with his new child. “Leave him,” ad­vises Linda. “He’ll work it out just like you have.” Re­mem­ber that hav­ing a baby is prob­a­bly one of the most sig­nif­i­cant life events ever. Ev­ery­thing changes; noth­ing is the same again. But even through the po­ten­tially hard days and long nights, re­mem­ber there’s sup­port out there. You just have to be will­ing to look for it.

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