Father's Day: Pains behind fatherhood
Father’s Day is an occasion that allows us to honour paternal bonds but we should go a step forward in understanding the myriad mental health issues that dads generally face
Father's Day is celebrated annually on the third Sunday in June in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, India, and a number of other countries around the world. Father's Day is an occasion for honouring fatherhood and paternal bonds, as well as acknowledge the influence of fathers in society.
While it may seem like a good reason to celebrate, not everyone may have a good relationship with their father. What is also important to highlight is that fathers themselves go through myriad mental health issues that may impact their families and loved ones. A father's mental health can impact an entire family.
Let us take a closer look at fathers and their mental health issues.
Reasons behind paternal mental health issues:
⁕ Genetical, hormonal, and medical conditions
⁕ Psychological make-up, personality
⁕ Childhood trauma
⁕ Over-conditioning from societal expectations
⁕ Poor relationship with own parents
⁕ Stressors like loss of job, finances
⁕ Difficult relationship with a partner
⁕ Physical or other debilitating diagnoses
Societal conditioning & expectations:
A 'Father figure' is expected to be the head of the family, a patriarchal, stoic, and protective person. Sadly, this means caring for everyone's needs and providing for them but at the same time not displaying their own emotions. Most individuals state they have never seen their father cry or display many emotions. This is due to how society wires us and our expectations around fathers.
Postnatal changes: Grossly underreported due to the lack of information and stigma, Paternal Postnatal Depression exists. Many new fathers experience postnatal changes like new mothers. This may include anxiety, low mood, depression, and lack of attachment.
Anger: "Shhh…Dad will get angry." "You don't know what dad will do in a fit of rage". These are common threats used in Indian households. Fathers may often resort to anger and aggression as a display of power. Then there is another societal norm where negative emotions like discomfort are displayed only as anger.
Substance abuse: A common coping strategy used by many to blow off some steam and unwind. When it becomes a dependent pattern, it can ruin families because the priorities shift towards the addiction rather than the loved ones. Substance abuse and addiction can run in the genes, especially paternal genes.
Depression: Men don't cry. But why? The way men display depression is atypical sometimes and hence overlooked. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. But this doesn't change the fact that men usually don't come forward to seek help for their mental health issues.
Daddy issues: This is not a diagnostic term but an informal one that refers to the trouble some people have with forming secure relationships in adulthood, based on an early unhealthy connection or lack thereof with their father. According to the Freudian concept of the Father complex, a person may develop unconscious impulses & associations because of their poor relationship with their father. A negative impulse toward a partner could be fear or distrust, while a positive impulse could be excessive admiration towards the partner.
A daughter with a father complex develops unhealthy relationships with other men who care for her in order to recreate their relationship with her father as a way of trying to fix the broken relationship. Daddy issues can exist in men too.
Empty nest: Empty nest syndrome refers to the distress and other complicated emotions that parents often experience when their children leave home.
Andropause: Just like women undergo menopause, where the reproductive cycle comes to an end, men can undergo andropause. It is characterized by a decrease in sexual satisfaction or a decline in a feeling of general well-being with low levels of testosterone in the older man.
Difficult relationship with your paternal figure? Here is what you can try
A troubled relationship with the paternal figure in life can look like many things. From feeling like your father may not have been emotionally available to witnessing domestic abuse; neglect, abandonment of family; substance abuse and addiction; and more.
Try to explore the complicated part in therapy. After being more aware of the issues and resolving them within, you may choose to approach the person(father) & rekindle the relationship with them or choose to find forgiveness and closure as a therapeutic journey.
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