Caring for a loved one can be rewarding, but it can also be overwhelming, particularly if your family member has a stubborn streak or struggles with impulse control and emotional regulation. Even the most devoted caregiver can become burned out and depressed.
Here are some warning signs that may mean it is time to get help.
Guilt or Self-Blame
Dealing with a loved one’s chronic illness brings up many complex emotions, but lingering feelings of guilt may mean that you need outside help. Struggling with self-worth or blaming yourself for things beyond your control are also warning signs.
Anxiety and Agitation
Do you find yourself getting angry or feeling unreasonably stressed over the tiniest things? If so, you may need to take a step back. Anxiety and irrational agitation often go hand-in-hand with depression.
Lingering Physical Illnesses
Anyone can get a bad cold or flu that lasts a while, but if you have vague yet persistent symptoms, your body may be trying to tell you something. Headaches and other forms of chronic pain are particularly linked to depression.
Lack of Focus
Do you find yourself running late constantly or missing important appointments? Do you have trouble paying attention to books or articles that would once have interested you? That can be a sign that you’re overwhelmed and too stressed.
It can be difficult to feel hopeful when caring for a relative with a condition of some sort, but healthy caregivers are still able to see the joy in life and have hope for their own futures. If you feel hopeless and worry that things will only get worse, it’s time to seek help.
Weight and Appetite Changes
When you’re caring for someone else, it’s easy to neglect your own needs. When that spirals into depression, you may find yourself not eating at all or overeating to comfort yourself. Your weight may fluctuate rapidly and dangerously.
Are you often lying awake at night unable to sleep for no reason? Or do you find yourself wanting to do nothing except curl up and take a nap no matter what? Significant changes in sleep patterns can indicate a big problem.
Thinking of Self-Harm
Suicidal thoughts or fantasies of self-harm are a big red flag, even if you don’t plan to act on them. If you find yourself struggling with thoughts of self-harm, contact your doctor or a crisis center immediately.
Loss of Interest
It’s important for caregivers to make time for themselves. If you find yourself struggling to feel interested in things you once loved, you may be depressed.
It’s normal to feel tired as you juggle your own life and caring for your loved one, but that exhaustion should go away when you get a bit of time off. If you can’t seem to shake it or it bothers you daily, you may be dealing with depression.
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or a caregiver you know, please seek professional help.