Caregiver Stresses and Burdens

Providing care for another human being as they’re coping with cancer can cause major stress. Unfortunately, caregivers sometimes do not recognize the moment when their duties cross a line: from being manageable parts of a daily routine into being too much for a single person to handle.

By not realizing how big a burden they’re shouldering, caregivers may not understand the stress they’re under, or recognize the anxiety and depression their stress can cause. Their physical and mental health can begin to break down before they realize the reasons.

 

Spot the Symptoms

By recognizing the signs of stress, anxiety and depression, you can take steps to safeguard your physical and emotional health. Doing that ensures you’re able to keep providing quality support for your patient, and isn’t that a caregiver’s real goal?

If you experience any of the typical stress symptoms listed below for two weeks or more, consider seeking help and treatment.
 
Stress Symptoms:
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Feeling alone or isolated
  • Loss of interest in social activities
  • Problems sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Increased health problems
Anxiety Symptoms:
  • A feeling you’re losing control
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Racing pulse
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Fear of losing control
  • Feeling faint
Depression Symptoms:
  • Feeling sad or “empty” for most of the day
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Decreased energy/fatigue daily
  • Significant weight gain or loss
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

 

Coping Strategies and Treatments

If you think you’re suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, there are numerous options you can take to address them:
  • Take advantage of our support resources at City of Hope, including social workers, psychological counselors and spiritual advisors.
  • Talk with a medical or psychological professional about feelings of anxiety and depression and working on ways to address them.
  • Talk openly with your patient’s healthcare team and/or family and friends about the feelings you’re experiencing.
  • Identify situations that may be causing stress, anxiety or depression.
  • Begin solving the “little” problems that are causing you stress, then build up to addressing the “big” problems.
  • Don’t keep your feelings inside or blame yourself for any of them.
  • Increase the amount of contact you have with other people.
  • Make an effort to do activities that are pleasurable or fun.
 
*Adapted from the DSM-IV-TR