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I Gave Birth, but My Husband Developed Postpartum Depression

“The actual DSM diagnosis of depression doesn’t always fit how men experience depression,” Dr. Fisher said. For men, symptoms may include frustration, agitation and irritability, an increase in dopamine-boosting activities (drinking, drugs, gambling) and isolation.

That was my husband — frustrated, irritable and detached. He went to bed before 7 p.m., claiming exhaustion, though I was the one getting up with our daughter every night. He snapped at the littlest things. He just wanted to be left alone.

I tried to help with pep talks: “She’s a good kid! We’re so lucky!” Then I remembered how, when I was depressed, such cheerleading only made me feel worse, as if I was letting others down with my inability to snap out of it.

So I whisked our daughter off to playgrounds, giving him time to lounge on the couch or obsessively clean, something he’d taken up as a hobby. I encouraged him to go surfing or grab a beer with a friend, but he shrugged off these suggestions.

I tried to initiate conversation, by asking how he felt. He just kept saying, “I’m fine,” a lie familiar to me from my own depression days. Unlike women, men are often socialized to value independence, dominance, stoicism, strength, self-reliance and control over their emotions, and many see weakness as shameful.

“Men will do anything to avoid shame and vulnerability,” said Dan Singley, a psychologist in San Diego who specializes in men’s mental health issues. This, of course, is a challenge to getting help.

While maternal postpartum depression is widely discussed and recognized as a serious health issue, it’s often hard for people to take seriously the idea of a man having similar problems. My husband, for one, found it “ridiculous.”

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