Caregiver Stress

Many people, at some point during their lives, are faced with the task of caring for a family member or friend during illness. Caregivers provide support over the short or long-term in many ways, such as:

Caring can be a stressful and demanding experience, making caregivers more vulnerable to mental health challenges. With the right supports in place, caregiving can also be a rewarding experience.

If you are a caregiver, it’s important to remember to also take care of yourself and your mental health during such challenging times. Try not to feel guilty if you are not coping; there are things you can do and supports available to improve the quality of life for yourself as well as the person you care for.

Caregiver statistics

Many people find themselves in a caregiver role at some point during their lives. In 2012, around 36% of people in the United States were providing unpaid care to an adult with an illness or disability. (1) As the population ages, this percentage in any given year is likely to increase.

Caregiving is an unpaid role. Nearly 34.2 million Americans provided unpaid care to an adult over the age of 50 in 2014. Many (over 50%) of caregivers are balancing the demands of supporting their family member or friend with holding down employment. (2)

The majority of caregivers are female, with a 2015 survey finding of around 60%. This same survey found that around 17% of caregivers reported that their health was fair or poor and 22% felt that their health had become worse due to caregiving. 38% of caregivers reported that their role was emotionally stressful. (2)

Signs of caregiver stress

Each of us responds differently to the challenges of supporting a friend or family member. That said, some common signs of caregiver stress include:

Common challenges faced by caregivers

Caregivers can be affected by the same kinds of mental health concerns as everyone else. However, because of the nature of caregiving, they may be more vulnerable to experiencing challenges such as:

What to do if you are struggling with mental health challenges

If you are struggling with the challenges of being a caregiver, consider a combination of the following actions:

Therapy types to consider for caregivers

Most types of therapy can be applied to the mental health challenges that caregivers may experience. The most suitable therapy type depends on the specific challenges you are experiencing. Common types of therapy include:

What to look for in a therapist

The best-fitting type of therapist for you will depend on individual factors, symptoms and your location. When selecting a mental health professional, it can be helpful to consider the following:

Personal fit: Consider the potential for developing a strong working relationship with your therapist. The trusting working relationship with a therapist is called the therapeutic alliance, and it’s the number one indicator of treatment efficacy.

Qualifications and experience: It is important to look for a licensed mental health professional. This ensures that the therapist you work with has undertaken the appropriate education and training.

Talk in advance: The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This enables you to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.

Zencare can help you to find a therapist who is a good personal fit. You can browse the videos of our vetted therapists and book a free phone call. This can help you to figure out whether you feel comfortable discussing difficult issues with the therapist, and gives a sense of what the therapist’s approach is like.

Find the best therapists near you

Find therapists on Zencare, below. Search by insurance, fees, and location; watch therapist introductory videos; and book free initial calls to find the right therapist for you!

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.

Sources and references

  1. https://www.pewinternet.org/2013/06/20/family-caregivers-are-wired-for-health/
  2. http://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_CaregivingintheUS_Final-Report-June-4_WEB.pdf
  3. http://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/2015_CaregivingintheUS_Final-Report-June-4_WEB.pdf
  4. https://www.mind.org.uk/media/859562/how-to-cope-as-a-carer-2014-.pdf
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5423723/
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1064748112608628