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Emotional Signs of Caregiver Stress

Caregiving can take emotional toll
It's important to recognize the emotional signs of caregiver stress.

Find home care near you or your loved one:

"I'm so scared I'm not going to be able to get everything done. I can't believe no one will help me! It makes me so angry. I've never felt so alone and out of control before."

The emotional experiences involved with providing care can strain even the most capable person. The resulting feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, isolation, exhaustion—and then guilt for having these feelings—can exact a heavy toll.

It's important to recognize the emotional signs of caregiver stress. Take a look at the following list and see if any apply to you:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Moodiness/mood swings
  • Butterflies
  • Irritability, easily frustrated, road rage
  • Memory problems and lack of concentration
  • Feeling out of control
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Phobias
  • Argumentative
  • Feeling of isolation
  • Job dissatisfaction

Noticing the way stress affects you physically is sometimes easier than seeing how it is affecting you emotionally. You may want to think about how your spouse or children are reacting to you. If you're more grumpy than normal they may let you know or may just avoid you altogether.

Consider talking with a healthcare professional that can help you to evaluate your situation. Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a family caregiver. In fact, it is important that you take initiative with your own physical and emotional care, or else it could make you less useful to the person for whom you are caring.

Get more tips on learning to avoid and cope with caregiver stress.

Last revised: April 11, 2010

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. May 2, 2020 at 12:53 am | Posted by molly

    My husband and I had an amazing relationship for 18 years. He was my best friend and we used to talk constantly, about everything. Six months ago he suffered an acute ischemic stroke. Among other deficits, he has aphasia and short term memory issues. I now struggle all day every day to understand what he is saying. His frustration is palpable and I find the constant struggle to figure out his speech absolutely exhausting. We were thousands of miles from home when he had a stroke. He was hospitalized for a month and in transitional living for two more. Being immediately thrown into a medical crisis without experience was very stressful for me. I was instantly forced into becoming an advocate, and watchdogged everything from ICU to discharge. When he coudn't eat and kept making spitting gestures, the doctors blamed it on his condition. I looked deeper myself: literally, in his mouth with a flashlight and I diagnosed the oral thrush myself that prevented him from eating. This engaged a sense of hypervigilence that never went away. As a result, I feel like I am in constant state of adrenal overdrive, looking for things others will miss. Believe me, I discovered first hand hospitals are no place to leave anyone you love to fend for themselves. I left my husband alone once for 20 minutes; when I returned, I found him screaming for help, covered in vomit. I never left him again. I went days without food, then finally flew in family to relieve me while I ate. I am his only caregiver. I have yet to address my grief over losing what our marriage used to be because all the time I have is spent taking care of him. I go from sad to angry, depressed and now, already burned out. Every day sucks the life out of me and I find no joy in anything. My husband was my best friend, now he looks at me like I have two heads every time I open my mouth. I feel like my marriage has irretrievably, and irreversably shifted from spouse to more of a parental role. I have no idea how to handle this long term. Care gets expensive fast and his stroke forced my retirement. I am only 55. I keep trying to tell myself it's still early and he is progressing well, but I can't even face getting up tomorrow let alone a year from now. I feel overwhelmed and the person who used to support me is gone. This guy looks like the old husband, but he is nothing like him. If there is anywhere to go from here, I ain't seeing it.


    • August 20, 2020 at 8:14 am | Posted by Tuba

      Hi. I read your experience. Its very unfortunate you had to go through all of this. I am a mental-health professional. We are making a video on 'Caregiver Stress Syndrome' “Caregiver Stress Syndrome is characterized by physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. It typically results from a person neglecting their own physical and emotional health because they are focused on caring for an ill, injured or differently-abled loved one.” We are compiling experiences of people who are caregivers. We have some psychologists on board who will also be a part of this video to talk about how we can help people like you and reach out to to extend our support. The goal of this awareness video is to make people more empathetic, supportive and understanding towards caregivers and help them out in any way they can. If you allow me, can i share your experience in our video, your response can be kept anonymous, if you wish. We want people to understand how serious caregiver stress is. Let me know if you'd be willing to share your experience with us. If you want more details you can contact me at [email protected] Thank you for your time! :)


  2. November 29, 2019 at 11:52 am | Posted by Magda

    Be taking care of my father for 32 years now and more and more he gets demanding and I feel he is ungrateful. Feels he is entitled to the world be he is 90 and blind. I’m drained emotionally and physically. Anymore I don’t want to even take care of him. It’s sad but true. I feel I live in Groundhog Day with him.


  3. October 30, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Posted by KS

    Try changing it to this: God doesn't give you more than He in you can handle. The trick is to leave it in His hands and not take it back onto your shoulders.


  4. October 16, 2019 at 11:23 am | Posted by Gina

    My Dad passed two years ago, my sister and I have been caring for my Mom who has Alzheimers and needs 24 hour care. So besides working full-time, caring for her and trying to spend time with my boyfriend of 12 years and our dogs who are six years old and taking care of my house and myself. My boyfriend just turned 40 last year, I am 60, he would always ask if we could go camping or something to spend time together and I would always tell him, once my Mom passed (she is 83) we can do all the things he wants to do, but right now my Mom was my priority. So when he had a heart attack on April 13th, 2019 and passed away you can believe me that the guilt I feel for putting him off is HUGE. I keep trying to tell myself we had a good life together, and there's nothing I can do about it now so I really need to forgive myself, how was I to know he would pass away at the age of 40? It's only been six months since he passed away and everyone expects me to be just fine because I've always been the strong one, the one that keeps everyone else going but now having to take care of the house and the dogs and my Mom and my job and the bills piling up and not having enough money because I don't have his help anymore is just more stress than one person can handle. I'm at my wits end, especially since I hate my job and just want to quit but I can't seem to teach the dogs anything so they can help support me. LOL I know I need to take little steps and it starts with forgiving myself but it's just so hard. I don't even think I've been able to grieve for my Dad the way I really should because even before he died we were told my Mom would need 24 hour care so we were thrown into that right away. Being the oldest of three daughters, one of which lives out of State I've always been the strong one, so after Dad died there really hasn't been much grieving and now with my Boyfriend gone I KNOW I haven't grieved for him the way I need to because I have even less time to take care of myself. I know it's taking a toll on my sister because she's with my Mom all day long until I get there. We have had hospice coming since February but the aide only comes 3 times a week for a couple hours and gives my sister a little break. They do give us a 5 day respite every couple months but I'm not even looking forward to them anymore. I know when my Mom dies I'm going to totally lose it because I'm going to end up doing 2 or 3 years worth of grieving for 3 people. I guess I just have to take it one day at a time and hope GOD keeps helping me through this. They say HE doesn't give you more than you can handle but I'm really doubting that at this point.


  5. October 13, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Posted by Sue Rumball

    My beloved father was diagnosed with one cancer after another and I was the primary caregiver. My parents lived with me and my mother had a personality disorder, along with dementia. Mom began to shove dad and he fell one night, so hard that he needed hospitalization. He went to a nursing home for rehab and died of a heart attack while he was there. A few days after burying dad, mom was diagnosed with leukemia and thus began the circle again of constant visits to the cancer clinic for blood testing and weekly transfusions. My mother and I never had a good relationship but she was even more combative given her blood and mental health issues. She ended up in palliative care where she passed 20 months after dad died. When the funeral was over and I came up for air, I was an emotional and physical wreck. I had gained 70 lbs (have never been out of shape) and cried frequently. I don't believe I had time to grieve my dad and this played heavily on my mind. There needs to be an intermediary who can tell us to 'stop' and take care of ourselves. The notion never occurred to me and now I pay the price. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, panic attacks...all were exacerbated by the circumstances and I find it difficult to cope most days. Hospice counselling was helpful...grieving while the other parent is dying is impossible.


  6. September 14, 2019 at 1:24 pm | Posted by Daria Bonomini

    I am sympathetic to all that are caregivers and are on a revolving and continuous roller coaster ride. Sometimes I feel like I will never get off of it. I was a caregiver, am a caregiver and will be one until the day I die. Since 2001, I and my family have gone through so many illnesses and so many deaths with no break in between. We went from MS to Alzheimers to Kidney Failure/Dialysis to a Stroke and all types of cancers. Care had to be given to all family members until they died which sometimes took 10 years. Now, since 1995, when my husband retired from the Fire Dept., it has been non-stop back surgeries, blood clots, hernias, pancreatic cancer, throat cancer and treatments. Driving to doctors, hospitals, tests and more tests, this has worn me out and the tears never stop. I am so tired and I ask God for strength each and every day. All I can hear in my home is coughing, choking, spitting up every single day. The only time I find peace is when he is sleeping. The worst part of this is watching and listening to a person go from a vibrant human being to a body worn out from so many serious ailments and you are just so helpless, can not do a thing just watch them deteriorate to skin and bones with heavy breathing. You ask yourself, "how much more can I endure?" He needs 24/7 care but will not go. We can not afford to pay someone to assist. We have expended so much money into our home which was in need of major work. When you take a good look at a caregiver's life and look into their hearts, you will find hopelessness!


    • September 22, 2019 at 5:34 pm | Posted by Nancy Baker

      Hi, I feel deeply all you are going through. I am on a break to eat after spending 21 hours as a sole caregiver. I sent, propbably a rude text to my brother who lives 15 minutes away, tellling him I needed a short break


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