Caregiving partners need therapy! Psychological problems of caregivers…
Caregiving partners need therapy!
Caregiving partners need therapy because of the guilt, loss, grief, helplessness, vulnerability, frustration, anger, resentment, anxiety, and even depression they experience.
As a husband behind a chronically ill woman, I asked myself many times what to do to cope with my suffering wife.
She has endometriosis and fibromyalgia, they cause her to feel anxious and depressed. After considering panic attacks, M developed OCD.
Undoubtedly it is hard for her. Simply trying to be okay is a full-time job for her.
During her moments of doubt and the most difficult time of her life, M felt suicidal, and even tried to commit to it on a few occasions. Her guilt and burden were too much to bear.
At that time I took two months of work in order to help her go through it. We managed to conquer the darkness.
Her depression eventually faded away but left an emotional mark on me. From then on, every time I went to work, I worried about her.
I worried so much that every time she had a negative thought, I took time off work.
Not only does my love and care affect me mentally, but also financially.
So, why do caregiving partners need therapy?
The answer is that there are many factors that impact caregivers mental health, including your partner’s:
- gender and age
- behavior and cognition
- illness and functionality
- the duration of your care
- the amount of your care
Caregiving partners need therapy because they feel:
- anger and frustration
- anxiety and fear
- sadness and depression
- grief and guilt
- isolation and loneliness
- physical strain and exhaustion
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), commonly known as counseling, is beneficial for spousal caregivers who are isolated, anxious, depressed, and lack support.
Therapy and self-care are the most important tools against mental health problems.
Psychological problems of caregivers…
Spousal caregiving is not an easy task. It occurs when your spouse becomes ill, either – mentally or physically.
Sometimes it can take both forms.
My wife suffers from multimorbidity. What does it mean? It means she has two or more health conditions that affect her quality of life.
Firstly, M was diagnosed with stage IV deep infiltrating endometriosis. After her diagnosis, she experienced physical and emotional shock, which caused her to develop fibromyalgia.
Both conditions cause chronic pain, which in turn is the cause of anxiety over the unknown, depression due to loss of health, and OCD which gives a false feeling of being in control.
However painful a chronically ill person’s life is, it affects those who care for them.
As a professional caregiver for young disabled adults, I found it easier to care for them not having any close relations with them.
But when I come home, and sometimes at work, I think about my chronically ill wife differently, for obvious reasons.
I’m close to M, and so my approach to caring is more delicate as I don’t want to hurt my wife’s feelings, knowing that unlike with my patients at work, I have to share the rest of my life with her.
The other factor that differentiates professional and spousal caregiving is that by caring for my wife I don’t get paid, furthermore, I lose money.
Caregiving for a spousal brings additional financial strain on both partners.
The mental, emotional, and physical demands of caring for a chronically ill partner can be at times debilitating for those who care.
Caregivers provide health care support to others despite experiencing health issues themselves.
Spousal caregivers have a bigger chance to develop depression than other family members who don’t have caregiving responsibilities.
It also has a risk of anxiety and even substance dependence. This is why caregiving partners need therapy. It’s hard.
Talking of physical aspects, spousal caregiving may bring you a greater risk for headaches, bodily pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, even cancer.
All are caused by stress and you need to learn to manage it. One of the ways can be self-care.
Self-care before therapy.
My wife waited for her first CBT for 9 months. It was extremely difficult for me to balance work and caregiving.
She had suicidal thoughts at the time and I had to take two months of work.
As a professional caregiver, living in London has its perks. The private caregiving company I work for provides me instant counseling.
This might not be the case for you.
So, what can you do if it’s too expensive or you have to wait in the queue?
Taking care of your own mental, emotional, and physical well-being has to take priority because if you fell ill, you’d be no help for your loved one.
Being kind to yourself is the priority you should practice daily. Self-compassion means giving yourself credit for the caregiving work you do.
Stay away from self-criticism, harsh inner voice, and allow yourself time to take care of yourself.
There are also mind-body practices that can build your physical health and can also deepen your awareness and connection between your mind and body.
Mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques can reduce stress.
If you don’t know where to start, look for guided audio meditations that are available online.
Make eating well and getting quality sleep priorities.
While it can be difficult to keep a social lifestyle, your friends and family still matter.
Even if you cannot meet them face to face because of caregiving, you can maintain social connections via zoom or phone.
It will make you feel less isolated and prevent your burnout.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is commonly known as counseling or CBT for short. CBT is a talking therapy that is proven to help with a wide range of issues.
The main difference between CBT and other forms of psychotherapy is that CBT focuses on the problems and difficulties that you are experiencing now, rather than those based on the past.
Even though caregivers think that our partner is the one who needs emotional support, we think that we have to be strong for our spouse.
But what does it do to us?
We get stuck in a repetitive spiral of negative thinking, eventually ending up feeling hopeless, depressed, and physically exhausted. That can lead to caregiver burnout.
What is caregiver burnout?
It’s a state of physical and mental exhaustion. It may change your positive and caring attitude to negative and unconcerned.
Caregiver burnout occurs when you don’t get the help you need, or try to do more than you’re able to, physically, emotionally, or financially.
CBT combines both – cognitive and behavioral therapies.
The cognitive element is about your thoughts which can create your feelings and mood. The behavioral part is about the relationship between your behaviors and your thoughts.
In a nutshell, that is counseling.
How CBT can help you?
Spousal caregiving may result in chronic stress, which comprises your psychological and even physical health.
Depression is a common negative effect of caregiving, and if you care for a woman who has endometriosis, it is more challenging because it affects your sex life.
Caregiving partners need therapy because when you’re a man, like me, and endometriosis stands in the way of sexual intimacy, and may even prevent you from becoming a father, it has a bigger burden.
If you want to find out more, check our article dedicated to my wife’s stage IV deep infiltrating endometriosis.
Counseling is beneficial, enabling you to feel good about yourself, even learn new skills, and strengthen your relationship.
Therapy helps you remove the toll caregiving has on your health and your psyche.
The responsibility of caring for a chronically ill spouse is constantly making you feel trapped in a caregiving role.
Left unchecked, your frustration may grow into anger, resentment, and then into depression.
You need to talk it out instead of keeping your emotions bottled up. The best thing you can do is counseling.
Here’s what Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can do:
- Help you with boundaries.
- Help you with anxiety and fear.
- Help you with feelings of hopelessness and depression.
- Help you regain a sense of confidence so you can move forward.
- Help you with your frustrations, anger, and other negative emotions.
When caregiving partners need therapy, they can receive emotional support in many forms, including:
- In-person professional therapists.
- Online support groups.
- One-on-one discussions with friends and family.
Professional and skilled therapists can help you process your feelings, learn to set boundaries and strengthen your ability to solve problems.
There are other forms of counseling provided by professional care organizations. For example, hospice providers specialize in grief therapies.
If you decide to talk with a professional and live somewhere else than the U.K., check your health insurance company for a list of providers that can cover your CBT under their plan.
If you cannot afford counseling, talk to a friend or family member who is understanding.
Another way is joining support groups which you can easily find on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
Additionally, there are mental health services available by government-funded communities.
To finish off…
The physical and emotional demands of caring for your partner suffering from a serious illness can be exhausting and even lead to burnout.
It’s important that you maintain your own health because your well-being matters.
If you do that, if you prioritize your self-care, you will be able to provide for your spouse the best care you possibly can.
So, here are some last tips for you to handle the common challenges that come with caregiving:
- Take time for yourself and your own needs.
- Watch for signs of stress.
- Pay attention to changes in your mood.
- Pay attention to a loss of your interests.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Exercise lightly at least three times a week.
- Listen to guided relaxation recordings.
- Prioritize a good night’s sleep.
- Set limits for what you can do.
- Don’t overload yourself. Be realistic.
Do the activities that you enjoy.
- Ask your family or friends for help.
- Share your feelings with them.
- Find and join support groups.
- Give yourself credit.
There is also a wide range of services that are available to give a break to caregivers. They can last from a few hours to a few days.
I know that you can always ask family members or a friend to give you a break, but there are formal respite services available in most communities.
Whatever you decide, use that time to recharge your batteries and look after yourself.
I hope this post helped you learn why caregiving partners need therapy, and how to help yourself become psychological problems of caregivers are often forgotten.
Let’s spread awareness about the struggles of caregiving partners. Spousal caregiving is as important as the chronically ill person we care for.
Hi, I’m Lucjan! The reason why I decided to create this blog was my beautiful wife, who experienced a lot of pain in life, but also the lack of information about endometriosis and fibromyalgia for men…