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What Are the Top 5 Caregiver Stess Symptoms?


Updated June 23, 2010

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What Are the Top 5 Caregiver Stess Symptoms?

Managing Health

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Question: What Are the Top 5 Caregiver Stess Symptoms?

Caregiver stress symptoms can negatively affect your physical and mental health. Even worse is when caregiver stress symptoms lead to caregiver burnout. If you are taking care of a loved one with cancer, recognizing the top 5 caregiver stress symptoms is important. Knowing these symptoms will help you get the support you need to avoid full-blown caregiver burnout.

  1. Stress Symptom #1 - Sleeplessness: When you add the responsibility of caring for a loved one to your regular responsibilities, it can lead to sleeplessness. Insomnia plagues millions of Americans who aren't caring for someone with cancer, so it's no surprise that it can affect those who are. You may toss and turn, lying awake while thinking, "How will I get it all done? Between work, the errands, the kids, and now getting John to appointments, how will I fit it in?" The worst part of sleeplessness is that it can contribute to exhaustion, making it even harder to tackle your to-do list.

  2. Stress Symptom #2 - Irritability and Trouble Concentrating: When stressed, it's easy to become irritable and have trouble concentrating. And if you're not sleeping well, your fuse will be even shorter. You may find yourself snapping at your loved ones when they ask a question or want your attention. If you feel more irritable than normal or you can't concentrate at work or home, you may be headed for caregiver burnout.

  3. Stress Symptom #3 - Anxiety and Depression: When you have a lot on your plate, it's easy to become anxious or depressed. You may be anxious that you'll fall short of meeting your loved one's needs. You may feel depressed that life will never be pleasurable for you again. And your anxiety can even have a physical cause. For example, if you aren't sleeping well, your body will produce more stress hormones, such as cortisol. This can heighten your anxiety even further.

  4. Stress Symptom #4 - Denial and Anger: When faced with a loved one's serious illness, it's easy to bury your head in the sand. You may be thinking, "She'll be better in no time. The treatment will be a cinch." It's also easy to find this denial leading to anger. "Why us? Why cancer? It's not fair," are common responses to a cancer diagnosis. This is completely normal, but if denial and anger linger and prevent you from addressing the situation constructively, this can be a sign of caregiver stress. For example, if you're in denial, you may not take the needed steps to take care of your loved one. You may need to line up friends and other family members to help with appointments and chores. Denial can make this seem unnecessary.

  5. Stress Symptom #5 - Poor Health: It's not news that your physical and mental health can suffer due to the stress of caring for someone with cancer. If you're stressed, you may not be sleeping well. You may stop exercising. Many caregivers have guilt over taking time for themselves. Even something as simple as a walk can bring on guilty feelings about all of the other things you should be doing. You may be eating poorly too. If you feel fatigued, you have lots of aches and pains, chronic headaches, or any other health issues cropping up, your caregiver stress may be pushing you toward caregiver burnout.

Next: Steps for Addressing Caregiver Stress Symptoms

Recognizing caregiver stress symptoms is the first step to getting the support you need to better manage the situation. By making yourself a priority and getting some help, you'll not only feel better, but you'll be a much better caregiver too!

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