In Caregiving, Anxiety Can Be Contagious
We all live with a certain amount of worry, much of which is caused by fear of the unknown. Since health issues can change without warning, family caregivers and the people they care for often live with elevated levels of stress and anxiety. This can be detrimental, not only to the person who is suffering from these feelings of apprehension but also to those around them.
Is Anxiety Contagious? By nature, humans are social beings. We value companionship and work hard to develop and nurture personal relationships that benefit us in countless ways. Our need for social connection and mutual understanding is so great, that we may even mimic others’ emotions and attitudes during encounters to develop trust and encourage closeness. To help us in this endeavor, we have evolved to read into other humans’ behaviors—both consciously and unconsciously—down to analyzing minor facial expressions, postures, and vocal qualities. But social interactions can cause more meaningful effects than mere mimicry. We may empathize with those around us so much that we come to adopt their feelings as our own.
For example, if a caregiver is experiencing burnout due to difficult care decisions or work-related stress, they likely bring that anxiety home in some form and unintentionally transfer it to the person they are caring for. Many caregivers try to hide their worries from family members, but this is much easier said than done. Tension and inner turmoil can be conveyed and detected overtly in our words and actions and through subtle cues like body language and tone of voice.
You may think you are putting on a brave and happy face for your loved ones, but your care recipient can probably sense that something is wrong. As a result, an elder’s own anxiety levels may rise. This tendency to express and feel emotions that are similar to those of others is called “emotional contagion”…
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “For anyone having to walk the last segments of life with a loved one, read this.” …Delores
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