Postpartum depression for partners

PPD vs PPA in Fathers: Understanding the Difference

Mental health challenges have no prejudice, bias, or distinction to whom they affect. It doesn’t matter if you have the deepest pockets, the perfect body, the most amazing family, or the dream life. Anyone at any time can be stricken with the overwhelming emotions and feelings that this mental health crisis the world is facing carries.

This leads us to focus on fathers and the postpartum mental health challenges that they face. Overlooked and brushed aside, fathers have different factors to handle postpartum challenges. 

It is very important to highlight that mental health does not have a quantified scale that makes one individual’s battle worse than another. This is important to remember when relating to the mother who also has a completely different set of factors to deal with in postpartum mental health.

Two of the most common postpartum mood disorders that affect fathers are postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. While these two conditions have similar symptoms and can co-exist at the same time, there are some significant distinguishing factors that identify each one.

The more knowledge and understanding that fathers can have of PPD and PPA, the better they can empower themselves with what they are feeling, why, and how they can potentially work through it. 

PPD vs. PPA in fathers

PPD and PPA as previously mentioned can seem like the same thing at times, however, PPA consists of a different range of emotions not entirely focused on feeling “blue”. 

One way to consider it is that PPD is feeling blue sometimes whereas PPA can make you feel red, which will be explained here:

Postpartum Depression in fathers

PPD in fathers can present itself in a variety of different manners. While some of these are different than what is common in the mother, remember there is no scale for who has it worse or not. 

Fathers can experience a feeling of worthlessness or identity loss which is very common when working through PPD. 

They may also start to socially withdraw themselves resulting in a lack of motivation or interest in doing things they once enjoyed, like hanging out with the boys.

Anger, irritability, and becoming easily frustrated coincide with symptoms of PPD, as the father may not know how to express themselves and does it through these harsh emotions.

Fathers may also turn to alcohol and substance abuse as ways of numbing their feelings and not wanting to confront these overwhelming emotions.

“Data shows that between 2 and 25% of fathers experience PPD and could increase by up to 50% if the mother is depressed as well.

Consider this an alarming statistic that requires more screening for fathers and attention to their moods and behaviors changing.

Postpartum Anxiety in Fathers 

PPA in fathers presents itself in a different fashion than PPD, but not overly significant. While it isn’t very uncommon for PPD and PPA to coexist, PPA alone can be just as overwhelming and challenging to work through.

The symptoms of PPA can be:

  • Overly worrying: An insurmountable amount of worrying for the safety, health, and ability to care for the baby
  • Obsessive thoughts: Fathers can begin to overthink and become obsessive with their baby’s safety, interfering with daily life
  • Less relaxing: They can experience a challenging time finding peace and ease of mind, creating almost a hyper-vigilant mode 24/7
  • Anxiety/panic attacks: All of these overwhelming thoughts can produce these episodes with a racing heart and shortness of breath

“Data shows through studies that about 10% of men experience postpartum anxiety.” 

The prevalence of PPA in fathers can be very common especially if battling another condition such as PPD or postpartum OCD. 

Sometimes it can be a snowball effect with one condition manifesting itself only to pick up more symptoms relating to another mood disorder.

Difference between PPD and PPA

  • PPD typically presents itself through feeling depressed or in a sad mood, whereas PPA is more of a heightened sense of worry or awareness for the health and safety of the baby
  • PPA has very intrusive thoughts that make one feel overwhelmed and incredibly anxious about the well-being of the baby, whereas PPD typically does not
  • PPD can cause fathers to feel reclused or avoidance of social gatherings and even family members, whereas PPA may cause them to seek outside opinions regarding the condition of the baby as they may be overthinking the well-being of the baby
  • PPD may show up in anger and irritability with life or even the baby whereas PPA is more of a concern and overwhelming focus on the safety and well-being of the baby

Potential risk factors and causes of PPA in fathers

PPA can be a combination of risk factors and causes that allow it to manifest in fathers. They can be emotional, behavioral, environmental, or biological that play a part in developing PPA. 

Here is a list of some of these factors that when combined allow for a better chance of PPD to happen:

  • History of depression or anxiety: One of the most common factors that play into developing a mental health condition, especially PPA
  • Partner with PPD/PPA: Having a mother/partner with PPA or PPD can definitely raise the chances of developing PPA with the father
  • Stressful life events: Challenges times could include financial issues, relationship strain, or even work-related trouble
  • New role: Becoming a father takes a big role adjustment and feeling the pressure and responsibility of this can be overwhelming
  • Expectations: The societal expectations of being the rock for the family and stoic can create a lot of stress and pressure for the father resulting in PPA
  • Lack of knowledge/awareness: Not having educated oneself or being aware of PPA can lead to underreporting of symptoms or not even properly acknowledging them
  • Traumatic birth: Being involved in a traumatic birth can heighten the concern for the baby’s safety and well-being transitioning into PPA
  • Lack of social support: Not having family, friends, or even a partner to listen and understand can make you feel alone and exacerbate the anxious symptoms

Coping Strategies for PPA

Stress is something that presents itself in everybody’s life on a daily occasion. It is how we view it and change our perspective to be able to properly manage it so that it doesn’t interfere with our lives. 

Some practices to help work through stress and anxiety can be done on your own and with very few resources.

Breathing techniques are an incredible way to lower your blood pressure, slow your heart rate down, and bring your anxiety and stress to a manageable level. There are many different breathing methods out there so do some research as to which one best suits you. I personally love the six deep breaths in with a longer exhale pausing at both the top and bottom. 

Meditation is a fabulous way to start your day off or end it allowing you to prepare or wind down from what you are experiencing. It can bring things into a calmer perspective giving you the confidence to handle those overwhelming moments that are associated with PPA.

Exercise/jogging/walking outside or just getting some sunlight can help lift your mood up and bring some happiness and confidence back into your life. 

Whatever time you have for these practices, I highly encourage you to give them a shot to see what works and gives you the best results.

Treatment options for PPA 

There are several ways to find help for PPA if you have been diagnosed or have been experiencing symptoms relating to it.

  • Seeking medical professional help like a therapist, counselor, or psychologist can help with serious symptoms and even prescribe medication to help alleviate the overwhelming emotions
  • Self-care practices as discussed earlier are a fantastic step at taking matters into your own hands to try and work through the anxious and stressful moments
  • Finding a coach as an alternative approach or even supplemental to a medical professional can take you on a journey through a program that will create the compelling future you are so worthy of.

The Role of Support Systems when it comes to Postpartum Depression Anxiety for Fathers

Understanding that YOU ARE NOT ALONE and what you are going through is only temporary and will pass can be a guiding light to finding a strong support system. 

There are many other people out there who have been in your shoes or are currently in them, and knowing that can help you overcome the stigma that society has on mental health disorders.

Talking with your partner, family, and friends about your emotions and thoughts will bring them closer to you and help you process what you are going through.

If you don’t feel comfortable with that type of support system in the beginning, try looking for a support group on Facebook that has other like-minded individuals. These are non-judgemental spaces that you can share whatever you have going on, and receive positive and helpful feedback on.

Conclusion

While PPD and PPA can co-exist, understanding that one has more of a blues feel to it whereas the other has more of a red feel to it is important in differentiating between the two.

Typically, individuals with PPD typically feel down, sad, and unmotivated, while those with PPA typically experience a heightened sense of worry, anxiety, and stress for the well-being of the baby.

Either way, both are treatable postpartum mood disorders that will diminish with time and proper care/treatment. 

As someone who felt overly anxious after the traumatic birth of my first daughter, I understand what you are going through and you will get through this, I PROMISE!

If you have made it this far, I am here for you to take the next step and schedule a 30-minute connection call to see how I can better help you.

If we are a good fit then you could be a part of a signature program taking you on a journey to live a compelling life filled with love, confidence, and gratitude for your family! 

Addison Caproni

Enjoy a life of love, gratitude and confidence with your family

5 Proven Steps to Working Through Postpartum Depression

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