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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. March 19, 2019 at 2:52 am | Posted by Mykala Eddington

    I’m currently taking care of my mom full-time and I already suffer with a great deal of anxiety but over the last couple of years it’s become unmanageable. I work all the time. I barely have enough time to eat/ the energy to even make myself a meal. My health in the recent year has declined. I’ve been in the hospital twice in less than a year. I’m severely anemic which makes me constantly tired. I never get any sleep because I’m so anxious all the time and honestly I don’t know what to do.


  2. February 25, 2019 at 9:27 pm | Posted by Lorna

    Most people are caring for an elderly person....a parent usually. I'm caring for my husband who is only 54. My husband had breast cancer and a treatment cause heart failure... his heart function has continued to decrease over the last year. I work as many hrs as I possibly can because he has zero income and any saving we had are gone. I am so exhausted and no matter what I do it's just not enough. We lost his truck because alone I just cant afford the payment...we are losing our home because we cant afford those payments either....if something does t change soon we will be homeless in 5 weeks. I have never felt so scared or out of control in my life. I dont sleep any more...and live in a constant feeling of fear and dread.....I dont know how to make things ok again


  3. January 9, 2019 at 5:58 pm | Posted by Lori

    I took care of my husband who had altztimers for8 years . He passed away last February :( im 16 years younger and feel like his altztimers has rubbed off on me its hard to do my job. Is this normal??? Im scared


    • January 14, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Posted by Andrea Breeding

      Alzheimer's does not "rub off" and it's not contagious. If you are worried, and it appears you are, see your health care provider for testing. There are many treatable conditions that make us feel we are losing our memories. Once treated, the memory improves.


  4. November 8, 2018 at 10:13 am | Posted by Alison Stokes

    I think people with addictions should realize what do to their family and friends .When you continue addiction you don't know what you doing to yourself and others. Maybe I repeated myself. Now Everytime I smell cigarettes smoke I'm going I how I almost lost my dad and did loose my mother to smoking. So people think about your body and family worth more for a five minute high?


  5. November 5, 2018 at 9:16 pm | Posted by Katie

    I take care of a lady who has changed my whole demeanor.She sleeps til 1 pm. The second her eyes open, I mean the second she'll start yelling for me to scratch her back and head. While she lazily and loudly yawns. After her breakfast, she start hollering that her dupa is itchy. Polish for butt. Absolutely everything you feed her is too salty, too sweet, to mushy, too chewy, chicken soup she doesnt want any chicken meat in it. Begs for bulleye candies thruout day then when yheir gone says she didnt eat them. All this is in addition to her belching all day then saying " dat feels good"....... she still man crazy. Shes 94. As soon as you leave the room she" ll make snide remarks. Why I stayed, the money was great. Today I lost it and told her what a totally unladylike son of a bitch she is. I feel so much better. I heard she's always thought people should cater to her.


    • December 13, 2018 at 11:05 am | Posted by Daniel

      Same here, but it's my father(91): agreed 6 years ago to be his caregiver due to encroaching health issues(Hodgkin's Lymphoma, accidents, etc.). Worst mistake of my life. After everything I've done for him he's turned into a senile, narcissist demon. Nothing is EVER right- always something wrong. Constant criticizing- including other's(Doctors, neighbors, distant family members who(smartly) avoid him & feel sorry for me. He does have three self-centered daughters in another state who are jealous of me(eyes on the inheritance) do everything to malign my standing with him. About ready to throw my hands up, sign it all over to their greedy & selfish selves and begin again(I'm 55).


  6. August 7, 2018 at 10:31 am | Posted by Peggy Kendall

    I have been my husband’s caregiver for 29 years. He was a victim of a hit and run driver in front of our house. Kid was 20, drinking and on drugs coming to sneak our daughter out of the house to go to a party at 3 am. He was never arrested and it was a police cover up. My husband had 4 craniotomyies and a massive stroke. In a coma for 7 weeks and lost 20 years over memory which included not knowing us. Frontal lobe injury which resulted in inability to know appropriate behavior and unable to problem solve. Had to learn to walk, talk, swallow food and much more. Have had very little family support over the years. The children have a lot of anger which had caused many more problems which only add to my stress. I am 68 and the stress has finally begun to cause me to have some serious health issues. I am not sure I can continue much longer. Unfortunately I gave up my career to take care of him and I have very few resources to financially leave. And the guilt of abandoning him may be worse than the stress and anxiety I am presently dealing with. Truly stuck.


  7. June 24, 2018 at 11:05 am | Posted by Joyce R.

    Dear Caregiverstress, More people need to know about your website. It really helps to unload and connect with others who are going through this impossibly demanding process. Why don't talk shows like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz address these issues?? My husband of 50 years, diagnosed with Parkinsons, Diabetes, and Lewy Body Dementia ( like Alzheimers). I am 76 years old and as a retired RN, I vowed I would not place him in residential care facility until he no longer recognized me. That was an impossible promise to keep! I am 76 years old and became physically unable to continue to care for him. I could not hire at-home care sufficient for his needs. The problem I now have is GUILT! Every time I visit him and he is relatively good, the guilt comes flooding back and I doubt myself and want to bring him back home. I am blessed that I have daughters who are very supportive of me, listen to me when I cry but there are not here 24/7 like I was. And friends say to me "Don't feel guilty, you did your best" doesn't help one bit. Nothing can assuage my guilt. There are no right answers, I know that. It really helps to share with others . We caregivers need to form support groups to lean and cry on each other shoulders. Isolation is so devastating. These are very lonely places to be. I journal my feelings and this does help somewhat. I strongly urge others to just sit, write down your frustrations, fears, guilt and then place it all in Gods hands. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 Remember that Jesus is walking this path with each of us.


  8. October 8, 2017 at 5:12 am | Posted by Ernie

    Hi' this is the hardest message I have ever did' 15 years ago my wife had a really bad brain stroke . left her in a coma for 20 days ' and I'm being told she will have very limited memory' and a lot of unknowns if she wakes up' after 20 days she opens her eyes' but doesn't remember who anyone is' we had been married at the time for some 20 years' this is the hard part ' days before this happen will were working on a marriage issues 'that involved her having an affair ' with another man' now it's been 18 years since this happen' she suffered a stroke 6 years after the coma' followed by a massive heart-attack . she a diabetic/ high blood/ she has not spoken a sentence in 18 years/ she has no move on one side/ there is no compassion / no sex/ no dinning out/ I can't leave she falls to much/ I don't have any friends/ no social life/ have heath issues of my own/ I was 43 at the time it happen/ now I 'am 61 / she is 60 / lost my 30 year job/ and had to go on Disabled myself . which happen a year of this' I have a spine issue . in pain 24/7 . after 18 years my family is burned out/ her family lives 800 miles way and don't care/ we never had children/ but she had two / they are grown/ and don't know and don't care about their mom. how can I keep this up / I'm only getting older and finding harder every day/ I thought about taking my own life to give me piece/ but that is not my call / I will leave that in Gods hands / I 'm asking for help / thru prayer / I'm a good man / once a very hard working man/ I served my country and state in the Military/ with Honors / I can't even begin to tell you how much it breaks my Heart to see other people that may be setting in a park holding hands / sharing their thoughts/ their dreams/ or just a simple kiss/ No one I believe should have to be alone in this world/ the way I' am / and yes I have looked in to putting her in a care center/ question is am I putting my wife / or just a person in/ most would feel I would be putting a cheating spouse in a home/ then is this telling God I will do the vengeance for him/ But God says in Romans 12/19 Vengeance is mind. but I feel that I'm the one who is being punished ' for having to give up my Life/ to take care of Gods' child whom I'm not 100% sure she even remembers want she did' is God going to punish his child for something she can't remember................... the movie with George Clooney the Descendants ........ is almost a likeness of my life course with out the money......................there is so much more to this life I've had to endure/ I could write 10 pages not even break the 10%. Y'ell I will say this it's not always then man who strays' ' a lot people wanted know WHY/ did she do what she did / she had a chose' this affair lasted over a 6 months period / while I was working / 6/7 days a week 10/18 hours a day/ until she thought she was uncatchable / this hurt more than I can put in words/ 1- she was my first love/- I never been with anyone else. I pray for all that has gone / and is going thru this/ walk thru the swallow of Death.


    • February 11, 2018 at 10:29 pm | Posted by Lainie

      My husband is 85, had a heart attack and two strokes a year ago. I’ve been taking care of him since July. I have help 3-1/2 hrs a day. He can barely walk with a walker and can do nothing for himself. I am 80 and was in good health but this is killing me. He is charming to everyone but me. We don’t talk and I feel he’s forgotten the 25 years we had together. I want to run away.


    • October 18, 2018 at 1:48 am | Posted by Tamara Jacobo

      I have been taking care of my brother for nine years now, he has not been easy to care for and currently is in the hospital and the recommendation is hospice. I do not want to continue as his caregiver even with the support of hospice, as he can be very verbally abusive and just plain mean. I also don’t feel I have the skill set to adequately provide for his medical needs. Long story short there comes a time when giving your life up to care for another person be it a wife, husband, sibling, parent does neither person any good. My physical and emotional health is suffering, I am 66 years old and so very tired. Putting your wife into care is not a horrible thing. You can go spend time with her every day if so inclined then go home and live your life, take care of yourself a bit. My suggestion is try to find a counselor and if need be pay someone to care for your wife while you go. Talking to someone about this situation who can help you sort some it out is self care. Aging and Disability Services or like agency might be a good place to start or even the VA. Best wishes to you kind man.


  9. August 1, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Posted by wayne zentack

    my wife is dying but also cotacted altimer and dementia only 56 years young she has glioblastimia brain cancer no cure they removed the tumer and treatments its hard to take care of some one whom has the altimers and dementia they fight with you and try to hit you they arenot in there right mind ive been doin this for year and a half now cant seem to get enough care takers to help my son and I to take care of her while I try to sleep lots of time that I'm up all nite no sleep this goes on for days bad disease it is no cure for it either I did the best I can so I had 2 hip replace ments while doin this back to back lucky she didn't kick me when I was healing probably have to put her in nursing home people don't want to work this day and age I got 1 caretaker to help me 1st shift when nite time comes all hell break loose so if I pay out of pocket expenses it would cost more for around the clock care at my house when I go back to work so its cheaper to put her in nursing home I'm not crazy about it but I have to companys cant get me no more help


    • August 11, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Posted by Home Instead

      Hi Wayne, thanks for sharing your experience with us. We're sorry to hear about the challenges you're facing but we wanted to share a resource that might be of benefit to you. The Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Relief Grant Program awards home care grants to those providing care to their loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Funds for the grants are provided by Hilarity for Charity and home care services are provided by the Home Instead Senior Care franchise network. Here is more information if you would like to apply:


  10. May 24, 2017 at 6:45 am | Posted by brenda bhatti

    what good advise, i have been a caregiver for 15 years and very happy to do so but recently have felt a bit low as my workload caring for my husband has grown, i now know that i need help some support from outside the family as my health has started to give me some minor problems i am 66 .i am finding it all emotionally very draining. i love my husband to bits so i feel i need to do this for him too. i dont usually talk about my care roll as i have always strong and a nurse for many years but thank god i am learning to relax a bit and not worry about keeping everying up


  11. April 10, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Posted by Sally Devereux

    I have found that being very specific about requests for help from my adult children has been effective. They have busy lives raising kids and working and do not understand our needs. When asked to take Dad to lunch, they have been glad to do so. When asked for overnight care in a crisis, they have worked it out. I do not expect my children to be our caregivers, though that my happen in the future. I am fortunate to have cultivated good friends through life, some much younger than I. They have provided support and a social life when I have most needed it. I would recommend widening your support network - it takes an army to carry a spousal caregiver who is also getting old! We need more free, good quality respite services in our communities!


  12. April 8, 2016 at 1:00 am | Posted by A Black Dog About The House

    This is a wonderful article to remind carers of the mentally ill to look at their own health and wellbeing. I have shared this with love on our A Black Dog About The House Facebook community.


  13. April 7, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Posted by Carol Galloway

    I have been caregiver for my spouse since 2011. He has Parkisnons and has fallen and broken both hips. We've been through those surgeries as well as a five month lung infection. There have been at least 8 hospital stays as well as a couple of rehabilitation stays away from home. Four years ago we relocated because two of our sons said if we lived closer to them they could help me. Well, not only did they not lift a hand to help me unpack and get settled in our new home, any help that they have given us was only because I begged and pleaded. I simply do not understand adult sons who have to be asked to call their dad.


  14. September 27, 2015 at 1:49 pm | Posted by Paula RIdley

    I cared for my mother with the help of my husband for 10 years with only occasional help from my younger sister. My niece would fix meals for my mom from time to time. Without my husband I would not have been able to maintain. I am currently working on my PhD in Organizational Leadership and I want to do my qualitative research talking with people who were caregiver like myself and how it changed who I am today. I am 60 years old now but this topic is still in my heart and on my mind. My mom passed 2 years ago.


  15. May 10, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Posted by DW

    I too am filled with soo much anger and resentment. I am fully employed and full time caregiver when not at work. I have no life. I almost lost my job because of caring for my mother and now have to be more present at work. I can't afford to quit and my mother is very needy. She has multiple issues including stroke and pulmonary fibrosis in which she needs 02 24/7. She can't bath, walk on her own, etc.. She was never mother of the year, but I do love her very much and most times don't mind caring for her. But I'm becoming so burnt out that I can't see past my anger. I do have some help come in while I'm at work but it's not enough. I need to have some alone time for me. My brother tries to stop by when he can and also call. My crazy sister is a complete no show. No one understands the amount of stress. I can do all the physical stuff no problem. It's the mental stuff she does that drives me crazy. She won't take her pills, drink her water, etc unless you plead with her. I know that there is memory and cognitive issues but she also does play these "me, me me" games too. UGH. All I really want is not to be so angry at her.


    • April 7, 2016 at 11:01 am | Posted by Sheila

      Im right there with you. I have been getting extremely depressed to top it off. I wish there was a support group I could go to but who has the time. Im exhausted mentally and physically.


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