Caregiver Blog: Caregiving and Depression: Fighting the Battles Within

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Diseases and Conditions

Depression is beyond normal sadness. When depression strikes, it knows no race, religion, economic status, or profession. It can be experienced by anyone at some point in their lives. Yet, some people are at higher risk of being depressed than others. Caregivers, for example, are 49% more likely to experience depression than people who do not perform caregiving duties.

How do you know if what you are feeling is more than the ordinary blues? Would you notice if your colleague is depressed?

For starters, not everyone with depression is tearful and confined to their bed. Some are ready to give a smile or even manage a warm “hello,” even if they are feeling totally broken inside. If you experience the following for longer than two weeks, then your feelings have escalated beyond normal sadness:

1. Feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, worthlessness, or not being good enough
2. Tearful, quiet, or lonely
3. Anxious
4. Loss of interest and pleasure in doing otherwise enjoyable things
5. Use of alcohol or drugs
6. Lack of focus, logical thinking, and motivation
7. Weight loss or gain or having an unkempt appearance
8. Thoughts of death or suicide
9. Increased number of mistakes and errors while performing tasks as a caregiver

The next question is, if you feel depressed, what is the best thing to do? How do you fight the battles within? Can you overcome it on your own?

The truth is, there is no perfect recipe to deal with depression. If there was, depression would not have become one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S., affecting more than 16 million Americans. Dealing with depression is not a matter of simply “changing your state of mind” or “looking on the bright side.” It is also not survivable by just “snapping out of it.” This is what separates it from the normal feelings of sadness. It takes the shared efforts of the person with depression, their support system, as well as professional help.

If you are a depressed caregiver, you could be feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions, and that you need help, but are sure that your case is hopeless. If you are starting to feel these emotions, the first step is talking to someone you can trust, like your supervisor or spouse, so that they can help you seek a mental health professional.

Clinical depression is not a trivial matter. It is a disorder that needs to be treated like any other disease, such as diabetes. Your challenging work as a caregiver does not make your situation any easier, because your lack of focus can endanger a patient’s’ life, which must be avoided at all cost. The earlier you recognize these feelings as signs of depression, the sooner that help will be available. Remember that there is nothing to be embarrassed about if you’re battling depression.

Once you are able to talk with a mental health professional, you will undergo psychiatric evaluations and different therapies. The psychiatrist who would handle your case would discuss ways to cope, with you and your family. They will also prescribe medications, and determine if you are still able to work or need to take a break from caregiving.

Perhaps the most important thing to do when everything feels pointless in life is just to let others help you. Keep in mind that with the help of your loved ones, colleagues, and your doctor, you do not lose anything, but just gain something big that will help you fight the battles you have within.


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