How does the stress of caregiving for a loved one lead to depression?

Caring for someone you love can lead to a lot of extra stress in your life. Although you have responsibilities to your loved one, it's especially important for you to remember not to neglect yourself. If left unchecked, stress can lead to or be a symptom of depression.

A depressed mood is a normal reaction to loss, life's struggles, or an injured self-esteem. Sometimes, though, depression becomes intense, lasts for long periods, and can prevent a person from leading a normal life. Depression that has these characteristics is a treatable condition called major depressive disorder, one of a number of depressive illnesses.

If you suffer from depression, it's important to remember that depression is a medical disorder that can be successfully treated. It is not a personal weakness, nor a sign that you are unable to care for your loved one. Early treatment is important for many reasons, including:

  • Without treatment, depression can become worse.
  • Untreated depression can lead to suicide.
  • Without treatment, people who suffer from episodes of depression often do not fully recover.
  • Treatment can prevent depression from coming back.
  • Your depression may be the sign of another illness that, without treatment, can get worse.

What are symptoms of depression to watch for?

Here's a list of common signs of depression. If these symptoms last for more than two weeks, see your doctor.

  • An "empty" feeling, ongoing sadness, and anxiety
  • Mental or physical tiredness or lack of energy
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once pleasurable
  • Decreased sex drive or sexual dysfunction
  • Change in sleep patterns, including very early morning waking, insomnia, or increased need for sleep
  • Problems with eating and weight (gain or loss)
  • Recurrent episodes of crying
  • Aches and pains that just won't go away
  • Difficulty focusing, remembering, or making decisions
  • Feeling that the future looks grim; feeling guilty, helpless, or worthless
  • Feeling irritable or stressed
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; a suicide attempt
  • Stomach ache and digestive problems

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