Serving as a family caregiver is a job that carries a great deal of responsibility and can be the source of high-level stress. Caregiver stress has been identified as one key source of depression in caregivers and adult children of aging parents should be tuned in to the signs of possible depression.
Approximately 19 million Americans suffer from depression and the count is rising. Although there are many causes of depression, such as genetic and biological factors, living in a high-stress environment is thought to contribute to depression.
What are some signs of depression?
Depression affects different people in different ways. Some have what may be thought of as a “low-level” depression, a kind of sadness or heaviness that goes on and on; others may experience depression in a much more intense way, with it coming on quickly and making a definite noticeable impact. Most people with depression do experience similar symptoms, however. These include:
- Diet differences. It’s not uncommon for people experiencing depression to change their diets. They may begin eating either more or less than normal, and will generally also experience weight gain or loss.
- Disinterest. Depressed individuals frequently take a “what’s the difference?” attitude, even toward people and things that usually interest them.
- “It’s never enough.” Depression often makes people believe that all of their efforts are in vain: whatever they do, it’s never enough or it’s never good enough.
- Sleep changes. Home caregivers who are sleeping too much or too little on a regular basis may be exhibiting another sign of depression. Also, if a person just feels tired or worn out most of the time, this may be related as much (or more) to depression than to actual physical exhaustion.
- Bad thoughts. Frequent thoughts about death or suicide, especially long and vivid ones, may indicate depression.
- Touchiness. People who are depressed often find themselves “flying off the handle” at little things or getting overly anxious often.
- An upset body. Physical pains, such as headaches or stomach aches, that occur often and don’t go away with normal treatment can sometimes be a sign that a person is depressed.
If you have any of the above symptoms on a regular or ongoing basis, you may have depression and should talk to a doctor and seek help. Start by contacting your regular doctor for a physical exam to determine whether there may be any physical reason for some of your symptoms; at the same time, schedule a consultation with a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist or social worker).
The good news is that the success rate for those with clinical depression who seek help is very high. Home caregivers not only need to be as healthy as possible, they deserve to be!