Like many fathers, Adam Elmaghraby enjoys spending time outdoors with his daughter. On weekends, he takes the 3-year-old to a farmers market, sharing his love of food with her and teaching her about fruits and vegetables.
Elmaghraby especially appreciates this time with his daughter, because his entry into fatherhood was difficult. A few months after her birth, he struggled with bouts of paralyzing anxiety and depression.
“Shortly after my daughter was born, I started feeling anxious. My mind would swirl, and I felt out of control. I didn’t have enough time for myself, parenting and my professional life,” he said.
Like many new parents, Elmaghraby struggled to adjust to the child-care responsibilities and sleep deprivation that a baby brings. As his mood worsened, he started to blame parenthood. But it took him nearly a year to reach out for help. Once he saw a doctor, he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, the two most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses. However, Elmaghraby believes he was actually suffering from the same mental health concern that affects up to 15 percent of women each year: postpartum depression.
Although PPD mostly affects new mothers, recent studies have found that men might also suffer from the illness. And, according to one research study, hormonal changes could be partly to blame.
The study, published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, found a correlation between testosterone levels and symptoms of paternal postpartum depression. Using a saliva sample, the researchers measured each father’s testosterone levels. They discovered that those with dipping levels of the hormone were more likely to feel depressed.
“Our findings suggest a potential biological and hormonal correlate of depression during the postpartum period,” the study’s author, Darby Saxbe, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, said in an interview.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can include feelings of irritability and sadness, anxiety, insomnia and, in extreme cases, thoughts of self-harm. For women, postpartum depression is the No. 1 complication of childbirth, affecting 10 to 15 percent of new mothers each year. A 2010 meta-analysis of several studies also suggests that as many as 10 percent of dads also suffer from this psychological disorder.
But even though obstetricians and pediatricians monitor pregnant women and mothers for postpartum depression, new fathers are rarely screened, making it less likely that they’re diagnosed and treated.
“Postpartum depression in men is not so easy to spot,” says Will Courtenay, a psychotherapist in Oakland, California, who…
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