Signs of caregiver depression and 3 ways to avoid it

Posted 31 May 2017 by Fallon Health

By Brenda J. King, Psy.D.

Caregiver depression doesn’t announce its arrival.

It creeps into your life one tiny step at a time. You probably won’t even notice, until it’s established itself and you feel overwhelmed.

Cycle of depression and stress

Caregivers often fall into a cycle of depression and stress. The more stressed you feel, the more depressed you become. The more depressed you feel, the more stressed you become. 

And that snowballs. While you were gradually becoming a caregiver, you focused more and more of your energy on your loved one. And less on yourself.

Caregivers often stop going to the gym. They stop going out with friends. Instead, they start having extra snacks during the day or more wine or beer in the evening. They drink and smoke more. They stop going for their mammograms and other routine health checks. They may even delay seeking care for themselves when something is wrong.

Signs of caregiver depression

This lack of attention to your own needs can lead to depression. Stay aware of these signs of caregiver depression:

  • Fatigue

  • Poor diet

  • Lack of exercise or physical activity

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Losing or gaining weight

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities

  • Feeling sad, anxious, depressed, angry

  • Physical pain, such as headaches, body pains

  • Alcohol or drug abuse, including prescription medications

Reduce caregiver depression

If you’re experiencing depression due to your role as a caregiver, here are some ways you can reverse that trend:

  1. Communicate. Talk to other family members and friends who have taken on the caregiver role. Join a support group.

  2. Accept help. Caregivers tend not to reach out to family and friends who offer help. It’s not always easy, but some approaches make it easier for you to ask for help and for them to accept.

  3. Find a good therapist. A therapist can help you understand how important it is to allow others to help you, even though it can be difficult to admit you need help. Reframing the situation can be helpful. Remember, you give a gift when you allow others to help you.

What to look for in a therapist

A good therapist can help you prioritize tasks, accept limitations, manage guilt and learn coping techniques.

Finding the right therapist for you can take more than one try. Here’s what you should look for:

  • Willingness to listen

  • Ability to look at the possibilities for shifting tasks

  • Ideas for helping you learn to seek and accept help

  • Understanding of how important it is to accept changing relationships.

  • Specialization in elder care issues/caregiver issues

Get more tips about caregiving!

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