Postpartum Depression in Men
Updated: May 20
Studies suggest it's more common than people think.
Why is Postpartum Depression in Men Underreported?
About 8-10%, or 1 in 10, New Dads may experience postpartum depression (PPD)¹. However, other studies suggest that this percentage of New Fathers affected by PPD may be even higher at or near 25%². It’s a condition that's rarely screened for and, therefore, often underreported, in part, because it’s not officially recognized in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5)³.
Moreover, postpartum depression is typically related to women because they're the ones who give birth while there is also a myth and misconception that men simply cannot experience “postpartum” depression. Another reason why PPD in men is an underreported condition is the general stigma of mental health caused by the oppressive and repressive cross-cultural gender norms and expectations imposed by patriarchal masculinity; men asking for help would be considered “weak” and policed by others for a "manhood" violation according to “The Man Box”⁴.
How Are PPD Symptoms Different for Men and Women?
Many clinical symptoms of depression are often generally similar in both men and women. Frequently though, many men who meet criteria for a depressive disorder, may experience and show signs of more anger, irritability, impulsivity, indecision, role avoidance, substance use, and a more narrow experience and outward presentation of other emotions¹.
Many men who experience PPD may also show combinations of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal signs of increased anxiety, shame, guilt, negative self-image, low self-esteem, workaholism, perfectionism, rigidity, defensiveness, shutting down, and/or withdrawal from relationships, roles, and responsibilities.
How Does "Toxic Masculinity" Play a Role?
“Toxic Masculinity” can be an emotionally loaded phrase for many people, and the word “toxic” may be a non-starter for actually “calling men in” for productive discussions on masculinity. Instead, its operative function tends to inadvertently “call men out” (attack), which may turn them off (defensiveness) and turn them away (shutting down and withdrawal). Men so desperately need to be a part of these conversations in order to share and take the type of responsibility that's needed to influence meaningful cross-cultural changes in societies around the globe.
All men, women, and anyone of any other gender identification have been victimized by patriarchal masculinity whether they know it or not. Patriarchal masculinity, and the gender norms and expectations reinforced by it, unreliably defines what it means to be a “real man”.
Patriarchy, in and of itself, is what perpetuates masculine toxicity. Unfortunately, patriarchal masculinity has created the conditions for underreporting of PPD because no “real man” will ever be “good enough” (*see below) according to “The Man Box”.
This is clearly why there is often such a detrimental stigma of mental health treatment for men. “The Man Box” of patriarchal gender norms and expectations encourages sharp collective criticism (policing manhood violations) of men who report PPD, and then our naturally emotional men (humans) feel externally motivated by other people to prove their “manhood” (impossible).
Cross-cultural criticisms that police manhood violations take root within men as their own inner critics’ thoughts and impulses to “suck it up”, “tighten that lip”, “be a man”, and pull themselves up “by the bootstraps”. This likely contributes to male avoidance and internalization of emotions, and it can become extremely harmful and potentially dangerous toward the self and others.
Acknowledging authentic human emotions (including PPD) and asking for help (a feminized and, therefore, devalued character trait according to patriarchal masculinity)⁴ is much more healthy.
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Scarff J. R. (2019). Postpartum depression in men. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 16(5-6), 11–14.
Kim, P., & Swain, J. E. (2007). Sad dads: Paternal postpartum depression. Psychiatry (Edgemont), 4(2), 35–47.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
The Man Box - Richmond College - University of Richmond. (2022, March 3). Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://rc.richmond.edu/masculinity/manbox.html
*P.S. - You already are "enough".