When a loved one falls ill or get injured, it’s never easy for anyone. It’s especially difficult to see your family member or friend hurting, which is why loved ones will drop everything to care for those that are closest to them.

In some cases, that care extends well into the future, leading to long term care. While no one would give up on someone they love, it can affect the caregiver in ways that not many people feel comfortable talking about.

One of the biggest ways caregivers can be affected while taking care of a loved one is by developing caregiver depression. It’s important for people to know that this kind of depression exists, so those who are affected know that they can get help.

Read on to learn more about what causes caregiver depression and how anyone who has it can get the help they need.

There Are Similar Depression Symptoms

Everybody goes through periods of their life when they’re more sad or more happy depending on what’s going on at that time. Even though sadness cannot be understated, depression takes that emotion to an entirely different level.

People diagnosed with regular depression often deal with debilitating symptoms that aren’t easily understood by people who don’t have it. One thing that has kept people from talking about depression has been the stereotype that people with depression are lazy or emotional.

Because of this stigma, it makes it even harder for caregivers to acknowledge their depression, even to themselves. Caregivers give their all every day to putting their loved one first, even though they might experience symptoms such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Suicidal thoughts

While the specific case is different for each caregiver, the symptoms are generally the same.

Sacrifice is the Main Cause

Even if someone makes a living at being a caregiver, it takes all of a person’s energy and focus to do that job every day. This is especially true for family members or friends who haven’t been professionally trained and take care of someone just because they love them.

The act of care giving itself isn’t what causes depression. Care giving can be a wonderful, even life saving, thing that someone does for another person. Depression can develop when someone doesn’t handle their care giving lifestyle correctly.

Caregivers cross a personal line when the care giving becomes more important than their personal care. That’s why sacrifice is noted as the main cause, because the well being of the caregiver can often be put aside. That takes a toll quickly, leading to the symptoms of depression.

What gets put aside is the caregiver’s mental, emotional and physical well being. They might skip meals to make sure their loved one eats or makes it to appointments. They might push off time to relax because they’re worried about leaving their loved one alone.

Then there’s the emotional and mental stress of being the only one taking care of someone. That’s a lot of responsibility to weigh down on someone’s shoulders, even if it’s done out of love. Given time, that weight will only hurt the caregiver and result in symptoms of depression.

There is Medical Treatment

Depression has been identified to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This imbalance is affected by a decrease or increase amount of neurotransmitters in the brain, along with a decrease in serotonin production.

Many studies have been done to find out exactly how these imbalances occur, but no answer has been reported. It’s estimated that there are millions of different chemical reactions happening in the brain at all times, and they all add up to how a person feels.

What has been discovered is the effectiveness of antidepressant medications. These medications work by increasing the serotonin production in the brain while stabilizing neurotransmitters.

Doctors can help patients find the right dosage of their antidepressant medications to help minimize the symptoms. If you believe medication may be your best form of treatment, talk with your doctor to figure out which kind of antidepressant is right for you.

There is Therapy Available

Some people prefer not to get started on medication if they can avoid it, which is when therapy should be the number one choice. Therapy is always a good idea for anyone with depression to try, but especially those who’d rather not get a prescription.

The biggest benefit of therapy is having someone to talk to. Caregivers struggle to tell anyone how they’re really feeling, out of fear of being seen as a bad family member or friend. In reality, 20 percent of caregivers suffer from depression, which is twice the rate of the general population.

Cognitive therapy is the kind where you sit down with a professional and talk about how you’ve been thinking and feeling. Behavioral therapy is where you work with a therapist to change bad behaviors. These can be combined with the practice of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Another effective form of therapy for caregivers is interpersonal therapy. That’s when a therapist asks you to describe past and present social roles and how they’ve affected you. They’ll narrow in on one to two roles that seem to cause the biggest issues in your current life and work with you from there.

Talking with therapists who specialize in these different forms of treatment will give caregivers a better idea of which kind of therapy might be best for them and their situation.

No Caregiver is Alone

Being a caregiver can feel like a very lonely job. When another person’s well being is entirely your responsibility, it’s something you carry with you every day. It changes your life, both when you interact with that loved one and when you don’t.

The truth is that no caregiver is truly alone. There are people out there ready to help if you suffer from caregiver depression. It’s okay to admit that you’re struggling. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about your loved one any less.

Talk with someone today to help figure out what your path to healing is. As you go through this phase of your life as a caregiver, it will be a much better experience if you have the right tools to help yourself.

Written by Kayla Matthews
Kayla Matthews writes about medical technologies and news developments for publications like The Week, BioMed Central and Kareo's Go Practice Blog. To read more posts by Kayla, visit her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews or check out her website: http://productivitybytes.com.

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