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Supporting yourself while caring for someone

Learn how to manage your own wellbeing while caring for someone else. Get information and tips on looking after your mental health and finding support.

Your mental health as a carer

It can help to understand common challenges that many unpaid carers encounter, as this might make you feel less alone. We explain some feelings you might experience while caring for someone, and how these can impact your mental health.

On this page:

Positive experiences of caring for someone

It can be a very positive and rewarding experience to know you are helping someone else.

Some carers feel they've learnt more about their own strengths, or have helped others understand their condition, problem or disability. You might feel a sense of satisfaction from making a real difference to the life of the person you care for.

Through your experience of supporting someone else, you may feel:

  • more confident in dealing with other people
  • more understanding of others with problems
  • closer to friends and family.

It isn't easy. There are times when it is desperate, exhausting and miserable. But overall I think we're stronger, more honest and more resilient as a couple.

Difficult feelings and your mental health

Supporting someone else can affect your mental health and make it harder to stay well. Although you may truly want to care for them, you may also find it difficult and upsetting.

If you're struggling with your own mental health and caring for a young person, see our information on parenting with a mental health problem.

When caring for someone else, you might experience challenges and difficult feelings such as:

  • Stress and worry. If you spend a lot of time thinking about their health and what will happen in the future, it may feel hard for you to switch off. Over a long time, worry and stress can cause mental health problems. It can also make existing problems worse. For more information, see our pages on stress.
  • Anxiety. Many carers say that they feel a constant anxiety about the person they care for. If your feelings of anxiety are strong or last for a very long time, they can become overwhelming. They may impact your ability to live your life as fully as you want to. For more information, see our pages on anxiety.

I got no support and I didn't really know that there was anywhere or anyone I could turn to. It had a huge impact on my mental health. I developed obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety and depression.

  • Isolation and loneliness. You might have less time to socialise or pursue hobbies and interests. If you've given up work, you may not see the people you used to and you might not feel as close to the person you look after. It can feel hard to ask for help or to let people know you are a carer and why. Your life can sometimes feel very different and it can seem like others don't understand. Over time, you might start to feel lonely. Social isolation can lead to mental health problems like depression. For more information, see our pages on loneliness.
  • Less time for yourself. You probably have less time to look after yourself, for example to be physically active, eat healthy food and relax. You may feel as though your health doesn't take priority, or you don't have time to get the help you need. For ideas you can try with limited free time, see our pages on relaxation techniques.

The hardest thing for me is I can never forget I am a carer. Even if I get some 'me time', first I have to organise alternative care and if I can't get it, I have to cancel what I wanted to do.

  • Money worries. You may have to pay for extra care, medical or travel costs. This can put a strain on your finances, especially if you're not getting enough financial support or benefits. You may have to cut down on work, or juggle work and caring, which can be difficult. For more information, see our pages on money and mental health.
  • Lack of sleep. If you support someone who needs help at night – or you're very worried and stressed – you may not get as much sleep as you need. Not getting enough sleep can impact your mental health. For more information, see our pages on sleep and mental health.
  • Guilt, frustration and anger. You may feel frustrated if you've given up parts of your own life, or feel you have no choice about the situation. You might end up directing this anger at family or the person you care for, which could make you feel guilty. For more information, see our pages on anger.

The biggest thing for me is making time for myself, it is very easy to feel guilty about making time, and very difficult to do on a practical level.

  • Low self-esteem. Looking after someone else can have a big impact on your self-esteem. You might feel that you should focus all your time on them. You might lose confidence in yourself and your abilities to do anything except supporting someone else. If you have given up work, you may feel that you have lost an important part of yourself. For more information, see our pages on self-esteem.
  • Depression. You may find that the challenges you face when looking after someone else can make you feel low or depressed. You might develop unhelpful coping strategies to deal with difficult feelings. For example using drugs or alcohol, or eating more or less than you need to. If you feel very frustrated or hopeless, you may have thoughts of harming yourself or ending your life. For more information, see our pages on depression.

If you feel unable to keep yourself safe, it's a mental health emergency.

Get emergency advice

Coping as a carer - Bryony's story

In this podcast, Bryony talks about what it's like caring for her mother while living with bipolar.

Read the transcript of the podcast, or find out more about Mind podcasts.

This information was published in May 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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