By Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, Co-Director of The PUR Clinic at Orlando Health South Lake Hospital
While the link between depression in mothers and their children has long been understood, the effect of depression in fathers has been under-researched.
However, a recent study reveals that if a father experiences depression, the odds of his child developing behavioral or emotional problems increase by up to 70 percent. These problems include feelings of sadness or anxiety, discipline issues at school and clashing with classmates or family members.
One potential benefit of this research is that it may be a motivator for fathers to seek treatment. Unfortunately, it is well-chronicled that men tend to hide their feelings, especially negative ones that might include symptoms of depression. From boyhood, many men are taught to suppress their feelings, making it more difficult to recognize their depression.
Symptoms to look for include:
Fatigue: A constant focus on negative thoughts can lead to fatigue.
Sleep problems: For some, the negative thoughts keep them awake. For others, sleep is an escape from their anxiety.
Anger and hostility: Over time, a feeling of constantly being on edge can build up and lead to acting out verbally or physically.
Substance abuse: The attitude that men should be able take care of their own problems may lead to using alcohol or drugs as a coping strategy.
Fathers should seek treatment for their depression for their own benefit as well as that of their families. It is encouraging to know that, by emboldening fathers to get help if they are depressed, healthcare providers may be able to reduce the risk of depression in children and teens.
If you have concerns or are experiencing symptoms of depression, talk with your primary care provider.