Emotional effects of caring

It is important to remember that you may experience different emotions as a carer. These are normal. Talking to others can help you cope with your feelings.

How you might feel

Caring for someone can be rewarding, but also very demanding. At times you may feel frightened, angry, guilty or lonely. The person with cancer may also have these feelings.

As a carer, you may feel you should be positive for the person you look after. But no one can be positive all the time. Being positive does not mean having to feel happy and cheerful all the time. It is a positive thing to say if you are feeling tired, worried, depressed or angry, and to talk about it.

Talking to other people can help you cope with your feelings. People have different support networks. You could talk to:

  • a family member
  • a partner
  • a friend
  • a health or social care professional
  • a counsellor
  • people in a support group.

Fear

You may feel frightened or worried about the future. You may hide your feelings to avoid upsetting the person you are caring for. You might also feel you have lost control over your own life.

Talking about your fears and worries can help. You could write them down and talk about them with the cancer doctor, GP or specialist nurse. Having more information about the cancer and what to expect may help you feel less worried and more in control.

Depression

You are likely to have times when you feel low. This could be when you are very tired or the person you are caring for is unwell. These low moods may not last long. Most people find they have good and bad days.

Caring may sometimes be so demanding that you become depressed. Symptoms of depression can include:

  • feeling sad or numb for weeks or more
  • finding it hard to enjoy things you would usually enjoy
  • sleeping problems and changes in eating habits
  • having no motivation, or finding it hard to concentrate or make decisions.

If you think you may be depressed, talk to your GP. There are effective treatments and support that can help you.

Anger and resentment

It is normal to feel angry if someone close to you has cancer. You may also feel angry because you do not have time to do things you enjoy. You may feel your life has been put on hold. Sometimes you may feel resentful that other people cannot give you the help or support you need.

The person you are caring for may not seem to appreciate what you do for them. Or they may be angry and upset with the situation and direct these feelings towards you. If this happens, talking about it openly when you are both less tired may help stop things getting worse.

It is important to understand that feeling angry is normal. Look out for the warning signs. There are some things you can do to help deal with your anger:

  • Take some deep breaths, and think about what has caused it.
  • Go for a brisk walk – exercise can help with anger.
  • Talk about it with a family member, friend, or another carer.
  • Think about what happened and how you could act differently.
  • Write about your anger – this can help release it.

Loneliness or isolation

It is not unusual to feel lonely or isolated. You may feel you do not have enough time to see friends, or friends may think you are too busy to meet. Try to see other people, even if it is just once or twice a week. Accept offers of help to give yourself breaks. Keeping in touch with friends through regular phone calls or social media can help.

If you do not have anyone to talk to, contact a local or online support group.

Guilt

You may feel guilty because you would like to have a break. You may feel that you are not a good enough carer. When people feel guilty, they try to hide their feelings and worries more. This can make it difficult for people to understand what you are going through. So it is important to talk to people close to you about how you feel.

The person you are caring for may also feel guilty about how their illness is affecting you and others.