Whether you are a family caregiver or a paid health aide, caring for patients can sometimes pull you down in ways that make it hard to recover. We’re talking about depression in caregivers.
Providing care to patients with a chronic disease and who are highly dependent can bring about overwhelming stress, frustration, fear, and physical exhaustion, all of which can negatively affect the caregiver’s mental wellbeing, especially long term.
Many caregivers experiencing the symptoms of depression do not recognize that they are currently experiencing something more than typical sadness. Some will not admit to themselves that they carry such a burden because they consider it an embarrassment or sign of weakness. They also worry about people passing judgment and feeling like a failure.
Cases of mental health problems in caregivers are all too common and very real. In family caregivers alone, 40% to 70% show signs of depression. Out of these numbers, about half meet the criteria for major depression, a very serious type of depression.
There are many signs and symptoms of major depression. Check to see if any of the following apply to your situation:
1. You are extremely sad and prefer to be alone. You often cry without any apparent reason.
2. You have a very poor appetite and have lost weight. Sometimes, you might also binge eat or swallow large pieces of food uncontrollably until you are too full.
3. You do not find pleasure in anything. Nothing interests you anymore. Even your favorite hobbies and activities don’t sound as exciting. You do not look forward to enjoying good food or doing fun activities.
4. You have difficulty sleeping. You lie in bed and struggle to turn off negative thoughts, but to no avail. You wake up in the morning feeling like you haven't slept a wink.
5. Persistent tiredness and lack of energy. You don't feel rested even after a long night's sleep. Not even halfway through the morning, you are already exhausted.
6. You feel helpless and hopeless. You give up on your situation, believing that there is no solution or that the situation will never get better.
7. You hate yourself for feeling so down. You feel guilty because you can't care for yourself, your spouse, or your kids. Your work has suffered big time, or worse, you were fired because of errors.
8. You are easily angered. Your outbursts are too mean and emotional for simple situations.
9. You have brain fog most of the time and cannot think clearly enough to make important decisions. You just let things happen like you’ve lost all control.
10. You have thoughts of harming yourself or ending your life.
If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, it's very important for you to reach out to someone, and get professional help immediately.
Here’s how a caregiver with depression put it:
“To me, depression is a thick, dark, menacing cloud that hovers over me wherever I go . . . I can't outrun it or hide from it. It is always there . . . it keeps coming, as if it is trying to push all the air out of my body." (CaregiverAction)
Depression is not something that you can talk yourself through, or snap out of. It’s a battle you cannot fight alone (and you shouldn’t have to!). If you’ve been having gloomy days that won’t go away, talk to someone you trust today.
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