Caregiver stress

Synonyms: Caregiver burnout

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Internal medicine, Psychiatry

Clinical Definition

Caregiver’s stress is a state of exhaustion – physical, mental and emotional – that occurs when those who attend to others with chronic medical conditions do not get the help they need, or stretch themselves too thin physically or financially. When anxiety progresses to a feeling of recurring burnout, research shows that caregivers' attitudes can change from positive to negative and they may start feeling depressed, fearful and fatigued.

In Our Own Words

When you’re caring for a loved one who suffers from a chronic condition, it’s easy to forget about your own needs, putting you at serious risk of burnout. Researchers find that many family caregivers who tend to an aging parent, a sick spouse or an ill child, often feel unable to cope, and these fretful feelings are often accompanied by insomnia and mild depression, which then leads many family caregivers to abuse drugs or alcohol. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Caregiver depression
  • Depression
  • Parkinson's disease
Side Effects
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Changes in sleep, appetite, weight
  • Feelings of helplessness, irritability
Share this article
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Caregiving: Recognizing Burnout." Diseases & Conditions. Nov. 2008. Accessed July 2013.
  • Harvard Medical School. "Caregiver Stress: When helpers need help." Harvard Mental Health Letter. May 2006. Accessed July 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Family Caregiving: The Facts." Sept. 2011. Accessed July 2013.
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