special needs stress

Stress, Depression, and Special Needs Parents

Stress, Depression, and Special Needs Parents often go hand in Hand.

Where you find one, chances are you’ll also find the other!

Parents of special needs children have a lot to worry about.

We face enormous burdens that most people will never understand.

Constant concerns about our children’s conditions as well as struggling to obtain special services, finding and keeping caregivers, battling with insurance companies, dealing with monumental medical bills, and feelings of loneliness, and isolation all take a huge toll on special needs parents’ mental and physical health!

With all that happening on a daily basis, it’s no wonder parents of special needs children are prone to stress and depression!

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Most of us are so involved with the daily tasks of caring for our children’s  special needs that we can’t seem to find even just one minute to care for ourselves.

Preparing special foods and diets, medicating them, changing their diapers, bathing them, managing their continuous appointment and therapy schedules, attending social outings, and engaging them in meaningful activities take up most of our waking hours!

Special needs parents are so busy that most of us probably don’t even realize when we are becoming physically and mentally exhausted until we crash and burn!

If you happen to be feeling or experiencing any of the following symptoms you are well on your way to a full blown special needs parenting burnout!

  • Not being able to sleep or sleeping to much.
  • Feeling fatigued or having no energy.
  • Feeling inadequate to care for your special needs child.
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Feeling depressed.
  • Eating too much or eating too little.

If you just shook your head yes to any of the above symptoms, I urge you to please consider the following tips for relieving stress and fighting depression.

  • Make time for yourself. I know, that’s easier said than done, but your child may be eligible for respite care.  Yes, I also know how hard it is to leave our precious children with strangers. I refused any respite help for years because of that fear, but when I hit a brick wall one day, I knew I had to start trusting others to care for Bethany or I would have a mental breakdown.  When searching for a respite provider start with an agency that trains and does background checks on all their employees. If you just can’t bear to leave your child with a stranger though,  some agencies such as ARC and Self Directed Services plans have funds available from which you can pay friends and family members to care for your child.  If all else fails even locking yourself in the bathroom to read a page or two in a book or have a good cry may be all you need to catch your breath and soldier on!
  • Join a support group. Meeting face to face with other parents who understand what you are going through is extremely supportive, but if you can’t physically leave the house that’s okay because there are many good online support groups. The Parent to Parent agency is an emotional and informational support group for parents of special needs kids. You can be matched up with other trained parents whose kids have the same or similar diagnoses for support. It’s a great organization! It is crucial for the mental health of special needs parents to feel that they can talk about their emotions, fears, and worries with others who understand what they are going through!
  • Seek financial help through government programs.  Many states have special medical programs for children with disabilities like the Medicaid Waiver which make children with disabilities eligible for medicaid even if their their parents’ income would normally make them ineligible! Your child may also be eligible for SSI payments, if parents income is under a certain amount.
  • Consult with a professional.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking  help from a licensed mental health care professional or doctor.   A professional can assist you in sorting though and processing your feelings and emotions and get you back on track to feeling confident about coping with your role as a special needs parent.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional or a doctor. The above information is not to be mistaken as medical advice or medical treatment. Please consult with a licensed medical doctor or mental health care professional for treatment if you are suffering with depression.


A version of this post was originally published on Feb. 4, 2015

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3 thoughts on “Stress, Depression, and Special Needs Parents

  1. I just lock myself in the bathroom and cry, and play on my phone for a few minutes to compose myself. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. Yesterday I started crying and could not stop…I realized it had been awhile since I cried. I feel better today…I think. Thanks for sharing.

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