the Caregiver Blues
Depression and Caregiver Blues
Caregiving can be a lonely task. Day
after day spent caring for another person can lead to feelings of
isolation and exclusion. With no one else to talk to, no one to
appreciate the small sacrifices you make on a daily basis, it's no
wonder that depression is very common among caregivers.
If you are experiencing feelings of
extreme sadness, relentless waves of self-criticism, apathy and
hopelessness, changes in eating or sleeping habits, trouble
concentrating you may be suffering from depression, a serious
Everyone feels sad or melancholy at
times. It is perfectly normal for some days to be better than
others. Brought on by stress, fatigue or boredom, mild depressive
symptoms linger for short periods and generally cause no harm.
However, ordinary depressed feelings are very different from
clinical depression, which is much more serious.
Can depression in women be
triggered by the hormonal changes that accompany menopause?
Researchers are investigating this possibility.
We do know that many women
experience troubling emotional symptoms such as increased
irritability during perimenopause, but those feelings may be caused
by a lack of sleep rather than hormonal changes.
Treatment of Depression
The first step in dealing with
depression is to recognize your own symptoms and seek treatment.
Talk with your primary care clinician or obstetrician/gynecologist.
He or she can assess the symptoms
of depression, initiate your treatment, and refer you to a qualified
psychiatrist or psychologist for additional treatment, as necessary.
Most women are successfully treated
for depression on an outpatient basis using psychotherapy,
medication or some combination of the two.
Alternative therapies, shown to be
effective in properly selected cases, include an over-the-counter
herbal remedy called St. John’s Wort and exercise. The best
therapy for you should be discussed with your clinician.
As with many types of diseases,
depressive disorders come in many forms. These are the most
- Major or Clinical Depression —
The most common form of depressive illness is characterized by a
combination of symptoms that interfere with the activities of
daily living (working, sleeping, eating and pleasurable
Symptoms generally persist for
at least two weeks, and episodes can occur once or recur
multiple times at various stages of a woman’s life.
Usually four or more of the
following symptoms must be present:
- Persistent sad,
anxious or "empty" mood
- Feelings of
- Feelings of
guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest
or pleasure in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed,
- Insomnia, early
morning waking, or oversleeping
- Loss of weight,
loss of appetite, or overeating and weight gain
energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"
- Thoughts of
death or suicide, suicide attempts
concentrating, remembering, making decisions
physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as
headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
- Dysthymia — A less
severe type of depression, dysthymia involves long-term, chronic
symptoms that do not disable, but keep you from feeling good, or
functioning at your best.
- Manic-Depressive Illness
— Also called bipolar disorder, this condition is not nearly
as prevalent as other forms of depressive illnesses.
Manic-depressive illness involves cycles of depression and
elation, during which a sufferer will alternate between extreme
periods of debilitating depression and hyperactive creativity
and energy. There is most likely a genetic influence in the
development of this disease.
- Sub-clinical Depression
— Also called "sub-syndromal symptomatic depression,"
this condition is defined by two or more symptoms of depression,
most or all of the time, for at least two weeks in duration. It
is also associated with evidence of social dysfunction.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
(SAD) — A mood disorder that is four times more common in
women than men, and characterized by depression related to a
certain season of the year, especially winter. The decreased
amount of sunlight during the winter is believed to be a cause
of this disorder, which is often treated with light therapy.