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Care Giver’s Syndrome



This is the experience I am living and healing.  I do not proclaim to be an expert, just someone who is learning and growing from a life lesson.    I wanted to share the information that I have right now, because I think nearly everyone I know will eventually be doing some care giving or experience high levels of stress.

This syndrome is also called Adrenal Fatigue and Adrenal Burn- Out Syndrome – it can lead to even bigger problems, such as diabetes and Fibromyalgia and death.

When I was reviewing the book  Female Brain Gone Insane,  about woman’s hormones,  page 164 begins a list about handling stress with a list of 50 signs of stress.  The books states if you have more than 3 of these stressors happening get yourself a saliva test.  I checked off 17 signs and I went to the book’s resources section and mail ordered a test.

I want to share the list with you:
1.    Frequent headaches, jaw clenching, or pain
2.    Gritting, Grinding teeth
3.    Stuttering or stammering
4.    Tremors, trebling of lips, hands
5.    Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms
6.    Light headedness, faintness, dizziness
7.    Ringing, buzzing or popping sounds
8.    Frequent Blushing, sweating
9.    Cold or sweaty hands, feet
10.    Dry mouth, problems swallowing
11.    Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores
12.    Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”
13.    Unexplained or frequent “allergy” attacks
14.    Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea
15.    Excess belching, flatulence
16.    Constipation, diarrhea
17.    Difficulty breathing, sighing
18.    Sudden attacks of panic
19.    Chest pain, palpitations
20.    Frequent urination
21.    Poor sexual desire or performance
22.    Excess anxiety, worry, guilt, nervousness
23.    Increased anger, frustration, hostility
24.    Depression, frequent or wild mood swings
25.    Increased or decreased appétit
26.    Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
27.    Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts
28.    Trouble learning new information
29.    Forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion
30.    Difficulty making decisions
31.    Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed
32.    Frequent crying spells or suicidal thoughts
33.    Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness
34.    Little interest in appearance
35.    Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping
36.    Increased frustration, irritability, edginess
37.    Overreaction to petty annoyances
38.    Increased number of minor accidents
39.    Obsessive or compulsive behavior
40.    Reduced work efficiency or productivity
41.    Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
42.    Rapid or mumbled speech
43.    Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness
44.    Problems in communication, sharing
45.    Social withdrawal and isolation
46.    Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue
47.    Unexplained weight gain or loss
48.    Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use
49.    Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
50.    Excessive gambling or impulse buying

I do not think this is a whole list, just the most common ones.   I would add kidney problems such as Kidney Stones as an early warning system, which is what I had every time I got too stressed and overwhelmed.

I did not know any of this as I was raising my children, working, and trying to do it all.  I thought being that exhausted all the time was normal and I was sure that I was not alone.   I wanted to prove I could handle it and was not sick, depressed or weak.  I wanted to be a super woman and do it all with bells and ribbons attached.

If I had been honest with myself, I would have put aside some of my wants and focused more on what my body needed.   I did give up my career and career goals along the way because my family needed me more.

I was the rock – now I am the sand.

My work involved teaching emotional wellness, stress management, and counseling/mediation skills.  I so wanted to finish my PhD and be an expert in Ethics and Human Development.  I mourned the loss and vacuumed the carpet and made the soup.

When I ignored what my body was telling me and did not persist in getting answers for myself and my needs my body kept making its needs known in a louder and louder voice – finally cancer – surgery and no hormones working any more.


I am sure I have passed this syndrome on to my children, so I wish to share this with my readers: everyone needs to understand how the body works, how emotions work and how to read what your body is telling you.

We need to teach children about stress and depression and how these are protective and good things which when one learns to use them well are our advocates for living a healthy and strong life.  These lessons are as important as any taught in school, whereas these are taught primarily by our actions not our words.

So are you taking good care of yourself?  Are you strengthening your emotions and relieving your stress? Do you understand your hormones and your body’s language?  Do you recognize when society is giving you wrong messages for your health and success?

Other related reading:
The Awesome Mom Club
5 Must Haves for Your Next Doctor Appointment
How do you Measure a Life
Increase your Emotional IQ

Looking forward to your comments

23 Responses to “Care Giver’s Syndrome”

  1. Betsy Wuebker Says:

    Hi Patricia – I want you to know that something you wrote well over a year ago caused me to change and supplement the way I think about the relationship we have with illness. I understood what you wrote as saying that illness is a protective mechanism in response to a threat. I have long believed that changes in our body chemistry can provide a hospitable environment to illness or rogue cellular behavior. The proof to this lies in the observations and correlations that attitude and positive state of mind have with healing.

    “I was the rock and now I am the sand” is beautifully stated. I also agree that the messages when we of a certain age were coming of age contributed to how we saw ourselves in society and the impossible standards we inferred from those messages that were required of us.

    In my own case my self-care ranges from heightened to completely ignored. I suspect it is the same for many, and the reasons for it are just as legion. When we speak of better balance (work/life, spiritual/secular, whatever), to me that implies a taking from the one in order to give to the other. I’ve long thought that integration of work within the rest of life is a better goal. So, too, is integration of self-care – perhaps more easily attained than balancing it. No more saying, “If I get that massage, I’m going to have to skip some other obligation.”

    So the challenge is still one of attending to one’s own needs, but with incorporating them into the context of other attentions as opposed to competing with them. Incorporation instead of competition, and mindful priorities.

  2. Hilary Says:

    Hi Patricia .. I have to say I made a concerted effort to not be stressed .. as I was getting stomach tightening .. I don’t get it now – I do what I can and walk away from what I can’t .. but I’m single and can do that .. & I don’t have to listen to others having their gripes and moans around me, or pressurising me when I’m feeling low – without the empathy of care.

    Fortunately for me – I’m strong in character, and in health – so I’m lucky (very) .. I worked out as a kid in the 50s/60s believe it or not .. what worked for me food wise, and how I ate .. ie little or no breakfast .. but for me – I feel better. I only eat fruits and salads til the evening .. maybe a little protein, but not much .. that’s what suits me …

    I do adjust as I go along .. I know I’ve been stretched in the last three + years, care-wise, love-wise for mother & uncle, work levels that needs and takes ..but I realised if I did what I could I would be ok – perhaps I wasn’t expecting the amount I ended up doing .. and the grief I’ve been given this year by my two brothers .. which is narscistic .. completely unnecessary – but if that’s their way – so be it .. I will be fine and will cope.

    I am lucky .. and I do have advantages .. I’ve had my knocks – but I’ll come out stronger and wiser with it all ..

    All I can say is relax if you can .. and only do what you can do .. – thinking of you and a hug or two …. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..The Silent Pianist Speaks … =-.

  3. vered | blogger for hire Says:

    I’m trying to take good are of myself. It’s not always my first priority though. Thank you for this important reminder.
    .-= vered | blogger for hire´s last blog ..Do You Believe That “Retail Is For Suckers?” =-.

  4. Mandy Allen Says:

    Hi Patricia, what an enlightening post. I have always felt I handle stress effectively and I do know what I need to help myself. However, sometimes life gets in the way…

    Enjoy the journey.

    .-= Mandy Allen´s last blog ..Helping out where we can =-.

  5. Tony Single Says:

    Wow. This sounds eerily like my wife. I’m going to have to show her this. Thanks, Patricia.

  6. Patricia Says:

    I was so proud of being one of the first women in Grad School of 750 men…..I just knew if I survived I would be great….the good news is that I used my drive to figure this out….this is the result of compound stresses and then lack of hormones….the other good news is that my Adrenal Glands are still working….now I just need to summons my patience….just walk don’t push and drive…just walk and smell the roses…the hardest part is losing my laugh :)

    I do worry I will lose my blog connections too, but some days I can not do anything but sleep.

  7. Patricia Says:

    Making a concerted effort not to be stressed is fabulous – siblings and parental ends are often a bad combination. Be careful and diligent at taking care of yourself.

    I think I thought I was doing a great job, and giving up my career to take care of my kids was a good move – the trouble was then I did a whole series of part time jobs so that they could have the extras and we could have health insurance….

    I was always told, what I now know to be adrenal weakness, I was lazy and not productive, when I should have been taught how to play and enjoy life too.

  8. Patricia Says:

    Learn to use your worry to your advantage…..and do take good care of yourself…I know you exercise…that has been my saving grace….also lots and lots of green veggies…no lie!

  9. Patricia Says:

    Mandy Allen,
    Welcome and thank you for making a comment – they are greatly appreciated. Traditional medicine does not consider this a problem, but in the USA this is a growing problem – treated first with tranquilizers and then as diabetes. Since I wrote this post, I have been given several books that have been very helpful.

  10. Patricia Says:

    If you can go to the website for Women’s Brains Gone Insane…under my other links reading spot….I am sure your wife could get the saliva test…but there is lots of starter information there. I have found several good websites now that I have a name.

  11. suzen Says:

    Hi Patricia! It’s such a shame that we all seem to get in a health crisis before we really learn to listen to our bodies and take better care of ourselves, give ourselves “permission” to have a day off and relax, and to learn how important it is to eat properly. My wake up call was 6 years ago – some life changing surgery – and I’m so grateful for it all now because it was indeed the catalyst I apparently needed! One of the reasons I’ve gone back to school is so I can help other people learn proper nutrition based on science, not marketing by the clever money hungry food producers. So to answer your questions – yes I take exceptionally good care of myself – and am worth it!

  12. Patricia Says:

    Hugs SuZen to you,
    I am here to say that one can take exceptional care of one’s self and still develop these problems. I was more at risk because of all the cancer surgeries I have had and treatments…my kidney’s and adrenals are weak players…

    I want people to understand the need to eat healthy and take care of themselves and I applaud your great works….because all those ad’s folks have a lot more noise than little ol’ me…

    This is a syndrome usually ignored by health care professionals until it reaches the more serious levels and then it is most often treated with tranquilizers and other huge drugs….Traditional medicine does not officially recognize this problem

    People need to be responsible to themselves first…that includes what they eat and their health.

  13. Joanna Paterson Says:

    Patricia, thank you for sharing this experience so openly and honestly.

    The universe has a strange way of working. Maybe you will influence more people now, when you feel like the sand, than you did when you felt strong…

    Because your words resonate with all of us who have felt something like this or are feeling something like this.

    I burned out totally six years ago and am still learing how to shape my life so it flows the way I need it to for health, love, well-being and hopefully wisdom too :-)

  14. Dot Says:

    With all that you’ve been through, Patricia, with the repeated bouts of cancer, I would think that your entire family would be the caregivers suffering from caregiver’s syndrome. It’s very sad to me that they’re not caring for you, instead of the other way around. You’re on the right track now, I thnk.

    But don’t become your own worst enemy again. It’s one thing to be an achiever, but it’s another thing to sacrifice your self in the process. Pamper yourself for a good, long time, until you regain your health, and start asking for more from those around you. It sounds like this might be your lesson for this time in your life — asking for, expecting and accepting help and care from others, especially loved ones to whom you’ve given so much.

    Look at me, telling you what to do when I haven’t learned that lesson myself. But I can recognize the issues. 😉

  15. Dot Says:

    PS – ((((((Hugs))))))

  16. Talon Says:

    “I was the rock – now I am the sand.” – that line says so much, Patricia, and is heartbreaking.

    It is not only a good thing to take care of yourself first, it’s a necessity. I think lots of people tend to run themselves into the ground and I don’t really believe for one minute that doing so is what life is supposed to be about. Life is hard enough when you feel well and strong never mind when we have to deal with all the stresses and strains of day-to-day life. I’m glad you’ve put yourself – emotionally, spiritually, physically – at the top of your to-do list.
    .-= Talon´s last blog ..Busy as… =-.

  17. Patricia Says:

    Thank you for making a comment today. I think many, many of us have experienced burn out a long the way. I do worry about the many who have been mis-diagnosed because this is not a recognized syndrome and tranquilizers can make it worse….as can sleeping pills…..we just think the strange muscle spasms are from that moment of over doing it….I really have to say thank you to the torn ligament in my side this last winter and the year before. It was caused by not being able to expand the ribs to breath deeply…because of muscle spasms.
    I am a person who tries it all and then stick with what works…the hard part is paying for all the treatments which most are not covered by the major medical groups….plus all the paperwork That can be overwhelming for sure.

  18. Patricia Says:

    It all started very young with my parent’s attempt to control my emotions down to total control was the only acceptable pattern. I ended up doing the whole families emotions without being able to teach them how -’cause I was the baby.
    Now I am learning to separate myself from people’s emotions and be an observer because I am just too tired – fatigued to help them.
    I have been thinking about getting a dog because I could find happy in having some being being happy to see me and sharing my days…plus 2 walks a day are important for both of us…

    PS – right back at you with the hug…

    We all learn from each other at the points where our journeys intersect.

  19. Patricia Says:

    This dis-ease has plenty of depression with it’s muscle spasms and fatigue….but I think my greatest and hardest part of this time in my life is that I have never been paid for my expertise and here I still struggle to teach and get the assistance I need….I have to pay to have time with people and to be listened to/even on this blog….and amazingly on this blog and with my massage therapist I feel the love and care coming back to me – reciprocity.

    I still wish I had made some money so I could pay for these services at a more appropriate level to healing.

    I want to be recognized at an expert in some area…and be acknowledged in that way also….maybe as sand I can achieve this as Joanna suggests above.

  20. J.D. Meier Says:

    Stress, EQ, and depression are tough topics. There’s so much to say, and you’ve got a lifetime of lessons.

    Here are some key insights that made a difference for me:
    – know that your thoughts influence your emotions (and vice-versa)
    – know the difference between stress and anxiety (stress is the physical response, anxiety is your cognitive response)
    – know how to perform The Relaxation Response
    – Know the Yerkes-Dodson Human Performance Curve
    – master your “explanatory style”
    – master your stories (stories you tell yourself about you, other people, and the situation)
    – think the thoughts that serve you

    Two books of amazing insight:
    1. What You Can Change and What You Can’t, by Dr. Martin Seligman
    2. Feeling Good, by Dr. Burns

    Both books share deep insight into what works and what doesn’t.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Why We Make Bad Decisions – Errors in Odds and Errors in Value =-.

  21. Patricia Says:

    Thank you for coming on over on a very wet and rainy afternoon! Your comments are appreciated.

    I have added the books to my list and this is good to have new resources at hand…hopefully they come on the Kindle?

    The fatigue and the hormonal depression are the hardest for me to contend with, but with patience and time I should be able to overcome even those symptoms. One never knows when this syndrome just might come on, but having been so ill for so many years, I should have said NO more often and not been so driven. This is not something one wishes to be in First place!

    I am all about proving things incorrect – especially assumptions.
    So I am now trying to be a wordy lighthouse and share what I have learned. Maybe someone else can avoid this.

    The grand news is with this streaming of movies on the Wii port, I might not be able to exercise, but I am watching many of those movies I missed along the way…and I know I have to learn to play.

  22. Jannie Funster Says:

    I’m sorry to hear you went through all those years of not feeling well and putting your own health on the back burner — of feeling you had to put everyone else first.

    You are so right about eating well and taking care of yourself. I had green veggies yeserday, and everything about them fed my body and soul.

    Amazing list of beeks J.D. cites.

    WHOOPS — I meant books — not beeks. :)

    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..ME / CFS Phoenix Rising Video =-.

  23. Patricia Says:

    I do tell my children that if you are not earning your own living and are not financially independent it is very hard to not be roped into constant care giving because you can not pay for what you need or other assistance.
    I could not pay for the tutoring my child needed so I had to do it myself – I even home schooled my kids for middle school because I could not afford the private school tuition. I worked part time to pay for our health ins. So I guess I chose to make myself ill…

    Yep JD has a very big book list for being the best one can be :)