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Study Shows Teens Can Be Impacted by Dad's Depression

December 19, 2017

For many years, healthcare professionals have understood the link between depression in mothers and the affect it has on their children. Research has shown that, if a mother suffers from depression, their children are more likely to also become depressed. As a result, treatment strategies have been directed toward mothers. The effect of depression in fathers has been under researched.

A new study, however, shows that pediatricians and physicians may be able to reduce the risk of depression in teens by encouraging fathers to seek treatment if they are depressed. The study showed that the odds of developing behavioral or emotional problems increase by up to 70 percent if the father experiences depression.

Conversely, only 6 percent of children with two mentally healthy parents develop problems such as feelings of sadness or anxiety, discipline issues at school, or clashing with classmates or family members. The risk increases to 11 percent if the father is depressed, 19 percent if the mother is depressed, and 25 percent if both parents are depressed. This means that, while the impact of a mother’s depression is greater than that of a father, his issues should not be ignored.

For fathers, however, and men in general, seeking help for mental health issues is a step many are unwilling to take. In fact, a nationwide poll of more than 21,000 men showed that, while one in ten suffers from depression or anxiety, fewer than half get treatment. While the survey doesn’t address causes, possibilities may include a cultural belief that men should be able to “tough it out,” without any help.

One potential benefit of this research is that the link between their depression and their children may be a motivator for fathers to seek help in the form of treatment.

Recognizing Depression in Men Can Be Difficult

It is well known that men tend to hide their feelings, especially negative ones that might include symptoms of depression. Starting when they were boys, many men were taught to suppress their feelings with phrases like, “big boys don’t cry” and “be tough.” Often, these phrases were uttered by their fathers, who were raised the same way. Men are typically taught to not let their emotions become a burden on others and the best way to do that is to keep them locked away. As a result, it can be difficult to recognize the symptoms of depression in men. This pattern of suppression needs to change for the benefit of men and their families.

While the symptoms you can look for to diagnose depression are the same for men and women, the primary complaints can be different. Some of the symptoms to look for in men include:

  • Fatigue. Suffering from depression means that the mind is constantly focused on negative thoughts, including fear over things that might or might not happen. It can be exhausting, leading to fatigue.
  • Sleep problems. This can be either too much sleep or too little sleep. For some depressed people, sleep is an escape from their anxiety, while for others, the negative thoughts keep them awake.
  • Anger and hostility. Being depressed means constantly being on edge. Over time, that can build up and lead to acting out verbally or physically.
  • Substance abuse. Sometimes the attitude that they should be able take care of their own problems means using alcohol or drugs as a coping strategy to help them forget their problems for a while.

There are many reasons that fathers should seek treatment for their depression. While simply being happy and enjoying life tops the list, we now know that it can make you a better father, too.