Sad dads: 40% of men experience anxieties after having children

Anxiety and depression among new dads is not uncommon, a Priory psychologist said today amid new research showing thousands of men experiencing anxiety - and in some cases depression - as they enter fatherhood.

“Among many cultures in this region, showing emotion or exhibiting feelings of anxiety or despair is still regarded as a sign of weakness by many men, who feel family needs should come above their own. As a result, they refuse to recognise when they may need help, which can only have negative consequences,” said leading psychologist, Maartje Suijskens, from the newly-opened Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai.

“New fathers can become overwhelmed by their additional responsibilities and the fundamental change in family dynamics, which often includes managing on a reduced family income, but their own emotional support is regarded as secondary. Yet, as with women, men can also be vulnerable to depression during this new, sleep-deprived chapter in their lives,” she said.  

Maartje Suijskens

The Priory Wellbeing Centre, which opened in April this year and is part of The Priory Group – the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, is calling for greater recognition of the emotional issues faced by new dads in the region.  

In the run-up to International Men’s Day, (Sunday Nov 19 2017) Priory’s research found that around one in 10 men say they have negative thoughts after having children, and more than one in three (39%) experienced some anxieties.

One in 15 men believed they were actually suffering from Paternal Post Natal Depression, although only 2% were officially diagnosed.

Two in five men (42%) who experienced depression or anxieties did not seek help, saying they were too embarrassed and ‘thought they should be happy’.

Nearly 70% of men felt there was ‘still a stigma’ around PND, saying society might view those who suffered from it as ‘inadequate’ parents.

Nearly half of men and women (47%) said there was not enough support for new fathers experiencing difficulties adjusting to parenthood, and nearly 80% of men and women said fathers were ‘forgotten’ in discussions about PND.

According to researchers, paternal postnatal depression (PPND) affects around one in 10 fathers, and its effects on the dad can be as devastating as that suffered by women. The BBC recently interviewed men who talked openly and honestly about their own experiences of postnatal depression.

Maartje Suijskens said she was calling for fuller recognition of paternal postnatal depression and a greater awareness of the symptoms among both new dads and the medical profession in the UAE. This will encourage men to openly accept and seek help if they are feeling the strain of coping with the birth of a new child.

“Postpartum parental depression is a complex and challenging disorder and its effects can be far-reaching. It can have a serious effect on parent-infant interaction and bonding during the first year of life, and can contribute to a child’s emotional, behavioural, cognitive and interpersonal problems in later life. It is vital that doctors and psychologists work together to ensure new parents leave the hospital better informed about the emotional impact of having a new baby, and the support that is available.

“Our research suggests that the number of fathers who experience anxiety and depression is greatly underestimated. New fathers might be aware of the fact they are not feeling well, but they will not link it to possible post-natal depression. Hopefully by raising awareness we can encourage this situation to change.”

Studies have shown that new fathers are also more likely to suffer from delayed depression than mothers, commonly three to six months after their baby is born, and often when the mother has recovered from delivery and is going back to work.  

“A number of factors can contribute to depression – worries about new responsibilities, a loss of freedom, developing a bond with your baby, money worries and if your wife has PND, you might feel more prone to depression too.”

Maartje Suijskens strongly advocates an open and supportive relationship between partners: “Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience and so will naturally have its challenges.  After the baby is born, it’s important both parents communicate with each other, as well as with family and friends, and share any concerns. The worst thing new parents can do is to bottle up their emotions and hope they will go away. You’re more likely to get a clearer perspective and the support you need to feel better if you talk to a professional.”

If you have serious depression you may:

• feel exhausted and anxious
• be obsessed with finances
• begin to withdraw from your family
• be irritable or intolerant
• sleep badly.”

The Priory Welbeing Centre in Dubai’s Healthcare City organises interactive group sessions for new dads who need support and guidance with the transition into fatherhood. For more information, please visit www.priorygroup.ae

The Priory Group has opened the latest in a series of high-street Wellbeing Centres, designed to help people gain quick access to mental health treatment in and around their times of work. The new central London clinic (located on Harley Street, W1) offers a family service for those suffering moderate postnatal depression and other issues such as stress following the birth of a baby.

Psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists also treat a wide range of other general mental health issues such as stress, and addictions. Its family service offers psychological support and counselling to those trying for a baby as well as those with antenatal and postnatal depression and anxiety. Priory has Wellbeing Clinics in Birmingham, Southampton, Canterbury, Norwich, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Greater Manchester, Oxford and London (Fenchurch St) as well as Harley Street.

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