Caregiving and Mental Health

By Mia Lukic

According to Women’s Health, more than 1 in 5 women in the United States had a mental health condition in the past year. Depression and anxiety are some of the more well-known conditions, but there are many conditions that only (or disproportionately more often) affect women and people who menstruate. These include but are not limited to: caregiver stress, insomnia, menopause, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

A caregiver is someone who provides unpaid care for another adult with an illness or disability. Most caregivers are women, and 60% of caregivers also work a paid job in addition to their caregiving. (Women’s Health). Caregiver stress is a term that encompasses the immense stress and strain being a caregiver has on one’s mental health. Being responsible for another adult, sometimes in addition to children and other family members, work, and yourself can be incredibly difficult. It is important to remember that we put on our own masks before helping others on an airplane, and a similar approach is vital to mental health. We cannot be much help to others if we do not take care of ourselves first.

25% of women have insomnia symptoms, and it is much more common in older women than any other group (Women’s Health). Insomnia can be primary, meaning it is the disorder or problem. It can also be secondary, meaning it is a symptom of other conditions or medications. But why do women experience insomnia at greater proportions? Women’s Health explains it is due to the menstrual cycle.

The changes in hormones that women and other people who menstruate experience can cause insomnia. Menopause, pregnancy, and PMS/PMDD all cause physical and emotional pain and mood swings which make sleep difficult if not impossible. Sleep is crucial to mental health and the brain’s ability to rest and rejuvenate.

PMS is a series of symptoms that occur before a person’s menstrual cycle, that causes physical pain in addition to :

  • Feeling tired
  • Irritability or hostile behavior
  • Sleep problems (sleeping too much or too little)
  • Trouble with concentration or memory
  • Tension or anxiety
  • Depression, feelings of sadness, or crying spells
  • Mood swings
  • Less interest in sex

PMDD is a more severe form of PMS can in addition to physical pain causes:

  • Lasting irritability or anger that may affect other people
  • Feelings of sadness or despair, or even thoughts of suicide
  • Feelings of tension or anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings or crying often
  • Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
  • Trouble thinking or focusing
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling out of control

Panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide are all listed as symptoms of these menstrual cycle conditions. They are all mental health issues that may require and deserve attention by a professional. While seeking help can be difficult, it is incredibly important. It might be a comfort that most people who menstruate also are going through similar things, you are far from alone.

All of the information from this post, including more info and resources can be found here : https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health

Mental Health Resources:

https://info.umkc.edu/womenc/services/campus-and-community-resources/mental-health/

Counseling Resources:

https://info.umkc.edu/womenc/services/campus-and-community-resources/counseling/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish.

800-273-8255