Carer depression is brought on by the constant stress, anxiety, and sometimes guilt, that come with providing care for a loved one.
What is carer depression?
Most carers will suffer from depression at some stage as a result of their caring duties. When you’re down, you may feel helpless and hopeless, but with support you can come through this difficult time.
Caring for a loved one can be incredibly rewarding but it can also take its toll on your body and mind. As many as 3 in 5 caregivers have faced depression because of the unique challenges and stresses of the caring role. It’s understandable. It’s also very important that you take the time you need to care for yourself.
Too often, carers focus all their attention on the needs of their loved one, meaning that their own work, social life and health is sidelined, leading to a real loss of their sense of self and their wellbeing.
If you’re sad and struggling, feeling trapped or hopeless, you don’t have to suffer in silence.
There’s no quick, magic fix, but with help, support and some open conversation, you can find a way out of the darkness.
Signs and symptoms of depression
Let’s face it, we all have bad days.
It’s totally normal to feel a little drained or irritable after a hard day of caring. But when you’re affected by depression, your mood will be affected for most days over a number of weeks.
The problem is, depression and anxiety can creep up on you, slowly and stealthily, so that many people have no idea that they’re ill.
Get help if you’re feeling:
- Persistent feelings of sadness and low mood; some carers feel tearful but many feel flat and empty.
- Anxious, worried and unable to cope with normal tasks, that used to feel effortless.
- A loss of interest in the things you used to love, be it a favourite TV programme, reading or any other activity.
- Exhausted and constantly lacking in energy.
- Distant or detached from your loved one, or irritated and resentful of them.
- Like withdrawing from social contact and friends.
- Like you’re struggling to concentrate and remember things.
- Disturbance in your sleep. You may struggle to sleep, wake early in the mornings or you may feel as if you need to sleep much more.
- Changes in your appetite. You may lose weight and interest in food, or you may take comfort in eating much more than usual.
- That you want to hurt or harm yourself, that your loved one would be better off without you, or that you wish you were dead.
Making a difference
When you’re depressed, it can seem that there is no way out. But there are effective therapies and ways in which you can start to help yourself.
Caring for yourself
When you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, making any lifestyle changes can seem impossible. So, take baby steps.
Eat regular healthy meals, introduce some exercise even if it’s just a quiet walk, get out in the sunlight every day and try and talk about your feelings to friends and family. Together these tactics can help you start to deal with your depression.
You don’t have to go it alone, it can really help to get a professional opinion, and treatment that will set you on the road to recovery.
Caring twenty-four hours a day can be debilitating and carer burn-out is a real problem.
Too many carers feel guilty about spending time away, but rest is essential for your physical and your mental health. If you feel guilty about time out, then try to remember that it is vital for your loved one too.
With rest and respite, you can maintain your health and wellbeing so that you are fit, well and strong enough to continue caring.
Think about hiring carers to come into the home to share the chores and ease the strain. If you access help and support, you will be able to care for your loved one in the comfort of their own home for longer.
Care and share
It can be fantastic to chat to family and friends, but often it can help to step outside the family unit.
Think about joining a local support group, or an online community. They can be a great place to chat, share experiences and tips, or even to simply have a moan in a place where no one will be hurt or offended.
Time for treatment
Many carers feel embarrassed or ashamed about their feelings, but it really can be good to get professional help.
Talk to your doctor, they may offer you medication or refer you for counselling, which can be an emotional outlet and a way to process and work through your feelings.
Lots of people are afraid of antidepressants but they can correct any biochemical imbalances in your brain, boost your mood and allow you the mind space and strength to start to recover. Most people wouldn’t hesitate to take prescribed medication to aid the function of a bodily organ, and your brain is another one of those. It sometimes needs a little help.