Specific laboratory testing will also be ordered, as certain symptoms of depression can be caused by an underactive thyroid gland or anemia. If there is no diagnosed physical cause for the depression, the depressed dad may be referred to a psychologist for further treatment.
Upon professional evaluation and diagnosis, depression can be successfully treated with a combination of antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Common antidepressants prescribed for those with a diagnosed depressive illness include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft; and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as Nardil, Marplan, or Parnate. Just as with any prescription medication, these drugs may have side effects (dry mouth, constipation, and sexual effects), however temporary or not, which should be reported to a physician/therapist as soon as possible.
"The role of a spouse/partner is highly important," says Dr. Rich. "Constant social support and encouragement of a father's family can be very instrumental in his treatment." Often new dads are lost in the shuffle, overlooked in favor of a radiant mom-to-be or cute new baby. Wives and families should be sure to encourage and support new dads as they tend to pregnant wives, help decorate nurseries, and plan for the arrival of a new life. Help keep your new dad active and grounded in his role as an individual and as a new father. Encourage your partner to continue with his previous hobbies or to find new ways to enjoy time alone. And be sure that your new dad is getting regular exercise, too.
More and more, support groups are popping up for fathers who experience depression. Local churches, universities, hospitals, and rec centers around the country are hosting groups where dads can go and spend time talking with other fathers about the rewards and challenges of parenting. Encourage your new dad to seek out these groups or even start one of his own. A Saturday morning playgroup with other new fathers in your community can work wonders for struggling dads. Just knowing that he is not alone can help allay a new father's negative feelings.
*Names changed to maintain privacy.