Is anxiety contagious? - AgingCare.com

Is anxiety contagious?

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My mother has lived with me for a year. She is very anxious. Now I find myself having anxiety like never before. Could it be that I am trying to anticipate all the questions and concerns I know she will have about everything? Took her to a doctor but she denied any anxiety and went into "company mode" where she asserts that things couldn't get any better so no help from the doc. Any suggestions to help me deal with my own anxiety before I need medication myself? Thanks!

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Anxiety is contagious. However, it is not the water that makes a ship sink. It's the water getting inside the ship that sinks it. Try to not absorb her anxiety into your ship.

Caring is one think and that's empathy.

Carrying another's emotions as if they were ours is not the same as empathy.

Carrying is enmeshment. It will sink you.

Do look into counseling to help you deal with your feelings and have a third person's objective viewpoint. Going outside to walk sounds like a great idea compared to walking inside on a treadmill.

Take care of yourself. Do something nice for yourself today.
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Yes, anxiety is contagious. My mother is a major worrier. I tell her she would worry the whiskers off a cat. She has generalized anxiety disorder and makes me nervous. And when I'm nervous, it makes my rabbit nervous. It's like she can sense it when I'm tense.

The best tranquilizer for me when I'm nervous is to go on a walk. Even a short walk helps so much.
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If you're responsible for your mother's care, I think there's a type of anxiety that develops primarily from this added responsibility. For me, it increases in winter as I plan for emergencies - power failure which would affect 24/7 need for oxygen, car breakdowns, packing the car with emergency supplies (will all those blankets really be enough if the car breaks down and won't start?), and other winter issues that could cause havoc for someone in his late 90's.

I find myself more relieved when we've segued into warmer weather and the threat of catastrophic winter events are no longer an issue.

I think a certain level of anxiety is to be anticipated when you have responsibility for someone who's older and vulnerable.
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Thank you so much for the responses. I knew that anxiety wasn't contagious in the way a cold or flu can be contagious but wondered if being around highly anxious people can make others anxious as well.

Everything you said makes so much sense. I really do need to develop some strategies for getting some distance. I feel like I am being sucked dry and it's affecting my mental and physical health. Getting back to some of my own interests is a great idea because I gave them up when I took on caregiving responsibilities. I have been walking on the treadmill at home but maybe going outside for a walk will be better. I have been considering looking into counseling to help me deal with my feelings about the changes in my life associated with caring for my mother.

Thanks for the empathy and suggestions. I am going to start putting them into practice!
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Hi Loves. My mother had so much anxiety that she absolutjy made everyone around her anxious. She was what I called Hyper vigilant in her later years. Always ready to point out what might go wrong. She was also very intelligent and was usually right. My sister would get so upset with my mother that she insisted at times that my mother take at least half of an anxiety tablet. My sister reasoned that one of them needed to be medicated and since my mom was causing the anxiety, she should be the one to take the pill. My mother steadfastly refused for the most part. So it might not be contagious but one persons anxiety does affect another's. In dealing with my mother it was always good to have everything that might cause her anxiety, such as a trip to the doctor, well thought out in advance. That's not the same as telling her in advance, as that would be more days of listening to all the pitfalls. And yes, you are anticipating because you know it's coming. If your mother has you trained like our mother had us trained, it's very easy to just obey the many requests and respond to all the concerns. At first. Then you notice you can't think straight because you have abandoned your own mind in favor of hers. So boundaries are important. Think of your emotions like a sponge. Every now and then you need to step away and wring out the sponge. One of the best ways to do this is with a brisk walk. About 30 min a day will do it. You can listen to one of your books on tape if you can't get yourself to do it otherwise. Even 10 min at a time will work but shoot for a total of 30 min a day. She won't like this either but she will see that you come back and it is good for you both. ( it's also good for her to walk or have therapy) About the doctor. I know it's popular to pass a note to the doctors staff advising of things you don't want to discuss in front of your mom. I've done that too with various family members. However, with my mom, I would just tell the doctor what I saw on a routine basis as opposed to the false picture being painted on the visit. I think it helped her see and hear how her anxiety affected others and that it was a real condition that could be treated. Write down everything you want to bring up. Pull out the list. It will give you courage to discuss it. Make a rule. If it's on the list you have to discuss it. If it provokes her anxiety then the doctor will get a more realistic look at his patient.
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Emotions of all kinds are contagious. Try to emanate positive ones.
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The anxious one was never my bedridden Mom or my husband, but rather it is me. I had a lot of anxiety about my Mom's condition as I was her care giver 24/7, and trying to close out a 40 yr. old family business due to a buyer coming along. She had frequent delirium and hospitalizations at the start of the decline. I also developed a spontaneous retinal detachment about 2 months before Mom passed and I had to have emergency eye surgery .I remember being blind in that eye and cleaning and changing my Mom and wondering what was wrong with my eye and why everything was brown when looking through that eye, before I could get a hold of an eye doctor. Then my husband went A-fib again a week after that. Now Mom has passed, and I am trying to curb anxiety as I am really wondering if it has effected my husband's and my own health. I do not want to pass the anxiety on to him as he is now doing better. I really do believe after all I have been through, that the anxiety I had effected my husband. I like the comparison to water entering a ship. I am trying to consciously control anxiety by working in the garden, taking walks, meditating, keeping a journal, and being aware when those feelings start to creep in to tell myself things will be ok...this will all be over in 50 years, so why get upset and ruin what time we have left! The fact that pets pick up so much on our anxiety does show that it is contagious. I have to unlearn my anxiety.
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My mom was so anxious that she was becoming an embarrassing and disruptive nuisance in the AL. The other residents were giving me the evil eye and recommending that my mom call her lawyer--about me, as I was knocking myself out to help her.

The AL., brilliantly, sent her to a Senior Behavioral Clinic where her meds where carefully adjusted over ten days.

Since then she has been calm, pleasant, and content. We have nice visits.

It is about getting the right medication. If you have to keep trying things out under a doctor's supervision, then it will take longer than ten days. But it can happen. The quickest route to help will be to go to a geriatric doctor who really understands the problems and the meds.

Don't give up!
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I definitely think it's possible that you're on the edge of your seat anticipating your mom's questions and concerns. That must be an awful feeling for you.

It's not unusual for an elderly person to put on a show for a Dr. or other relatives or friends. And if we've shared our experiences with Dr.'s and friends and then our loved one comes across completely normal and appropriate to them we look like fools that can't be trusted. Another frustrating aspect of caregiving.

But to answer your question, anxiety isn't contagious but I think being around someone who is anxious all the time is bound to peak our own anxiety to a certain point. My daughter suffers from anxiety and concentrating on her breathing helps her. Taking deep breaths and really feeling the air going in through the nose and through the lungs and back out the mouth is helpful to her. Be aware of your breathing. How does it sound when you inhale? What does it feel like as it fills your lungs? Instead of exhaling in a big breath let it out slowly through your mouth. My daughter does this and soon she starts to feel better.

Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy? Judging from your screen name I know you love books. I do too. I love to read. Can getting involved with a good book help distance you from your mom for a bit and help alleviate some of your anxiety?

If you try to control your anxiety and find that it doesn't help a trip to your Dr. might not be a bad idea. We always suggest that we contact our loved one's Dr. if their symptoms change but that has to be the same for us as well. You've begun to have anxiety related to your mom's living with you. It's bad enough that you've reached out for help and suggestions here, isn't it bad enough to warrant a trip to your Dr.?
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Much depends on on the caregiver's baseline. For so many reasons known and unknown, I've tended toward anxiety since childhood; I've also tended to have very high ( some might even say unrealistic)expectations of myself and others. To mitigate or at least lesson this anxiety, I've used a number of strategies over the years, I've learned to meditate; read self help & spiritual books; journaled; been lap swimming regularly; talked with friends; gone to counseling; have gone for spiritual direction. Last but far from least, for the past 35 I've been married to a warm, supportive, laid back dear one. I've counted on my husband's counterbalancing my intensity. We've been a great team! The new twist is that in the last few years since he began to show signs of dementia I've noticed he's become more anxious. At first I fed into his anxiety. Now, I am able to notice both his triggers and mine. i have really benefited from attending an excellent four session caregiver training which helped me with new information; reframed some of my challenges and offered lots of practical suggestions. I've also been routinely participating in a caregiver support group that is well facilitated by a Social Worker. My montra has become " I'm doing the best I can in this moment...and so are you dear". That defuses the anxiety and frustration for us both. I've become more trusting in the Mystery since in retrospect, I can see how I'm able to draw on all that I've learned and continue to learn. Self compassion is very important . Only to the degree I can have deep compassion for my own self, will I be able to have deep compassion for the loved one I'm caring for. I'm grateful that I still have this moment...an opportunity to try again and give back. While what has and continues to be helpful to me ...may not be helpful to you, trying a variety of options can be helpful. Experiment! Know that you really can't make a mistake. Learning from what doesn't work can be even more relevant! Finally, prayers of petition can be supportive yet don't have to be formal. Sometimes I simply say..".God help me". Simple prayers of gratitude remind me of all that I do have or all I am noticing and learning from. May it be so for you as well. Sincerely Elle
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