How To Handle Stress When Living With A Mother With Mental Illness

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It can be challenging to look after a mother with a mental illness. Knowing how to support her without losing your sense of well-being can be difficult.

According to the National Alliance of Caregivers, “approximately 1.3–1.4 million young caregivers” are providing care for a parent, whether that be due to a mental illness or a physical disability.

While the work these caregivers do is admirable, it can also be overwhelming and stressful. If you are living with a mother with a mental illness, you shouldn’t let your mental health slip through the crack.

If you’re struggling to maintain your well-being, read on for our tips on how to handle stress when living with a mother with mental illness, and knowing how to identify when you need help.

How to Recognise When Your Parents May Be Suffering With Their Mental Health

Parents spend almost all their daily lives trying to put their children first and often find that they don’t have time to focus on their own needs. This can easily lead to them neglecting any mental health-related issues they may be struggling with, leading to stress and anxiety.

You must learn to recognize the signs of a mother with mental illness. Of course, different mental health problems will have different symptoms, but whether it’s bipolar disorder or depression, the following are some signs to look out for:

Changes in Appetite

Changes in your parent’s appetite can be a big tell-tale sign of mental illness. Whether it be a complete lack of interest in food or overindulging, these changes can indicate that your mother is experiencing anxiety or depression.

A person’s appetite changes when dealing with mental illness because it can be more challenging to decide and enjoy food. They may also find it hard to regulate their emotions, leading to overeating or an inability to eat.

Mood Swings

Mood swings can be hard to manage, especially if you have to live with them. You should watch for sudden changes that seem out of character or moods that don’t last as long as they used to.

If your mother’s personality seems drastically different daily and her behavior is erratic, it could signify that she is struggling with a mental illness.

Sleeping Too Much or Too Little

Keep an eye out for any changes in your mother’s sleeping pattern. It could signify mental distress if you notice that she suddenly sleeps too much or not enough.

It’s important to remember that everyone needs different amounts of sleep, so if the amount of rest your mother is getting seems abnormal, it could be a sign of an underlying mental health issue.


If your mother has become increasingly withdrawn, it could signify depression. People with mental illness may feel withdrawn from their family and friends and overwhelmed by their emotions.

It’s essential to pay attention to the amount of time she spends alone or if her interactions with other people have changed drastically. If so, it may be helpful to discuss her feelings with her.

While recognizing these signs of mentally ill parents is essential, knowing how to deal with the stress of living with them is equally important. You might even recognize these signs of poor mental health within yourself.

Here are some tips to help manage stress:

Take Time for Yourself Every Day

Living with a mother dealing with a mental health problem can be overwhelming and stressful. It’s essential to make sure that you take time for yourself every day and engage in activities that help reduce your stress levels.

Whether it’s going for a walk, listening to music or spending time with friends and family, making sure that you give yourself a break can help you de-stress and will keep you feeling mentally healthy.

Without taking time to look after yourself, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and stressed when dealing with mentally ill parents.

Don’t Take On Her Responsibility

It’s important to remember that your mother is ultimately the one who needs to take responsibility for her mental health. While trying and fix the problem can be tempting, it’s not something you can do on your own.

Instead of finding a solution, focus on what you can do as a supportive family member and be there for her when she needs you. This could include spending time with her and doing activities together, helping around the house, or just lending a listening ear.

Parental mental illness can be complex. You can feel as if you want to do everything you can to help, but maintaining some autonomy is vital to preventing burnout and maintaining your mental health.

Come to Recognise Her Mental Health Triggers

You might have noticed that certain events or people trigger your mentally ill parent. Coming to recognize what these mental health triggers are can be helpful not only for your parent but also for yourself.

It might be a good idea to take note of these triggers and discuss them with other family members. This way, you can ensure that your parent’s mental health is being managed in the best possible way by avoiding these triggers.

This will be helpful to support your mother with mental illness so that you can try to avoid situations that may cause her distress. 

And it will be helpful for you so that you can stay emotionally invested in her health without getting overwhelmed.

Talk To Someone Who Can Relate to or Can Support You

Having someone to talk to is essential if you struggle with your mother’s mental health. Talking to someone who has experienced the same issues or is supportive of your journey can be incredibly helpful.

It can be easy to get swept up in caring for your mentally ill parents and feel as if you’re alone, so having someone to talk to can help you process your feelings and give you a sense of comfort.

And recognizing when you need help caring for your mother’s parental mental illness is essential for your mother’s sake and your own. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you feel overwhelmed or need assistance.

Numerous mental health services are available, so take the time to find one that works for you and your family. Some of these might include:

  • support groups,
  • counselling/therapy,
  • charities,
  • or respite services.

Admitting when you need help dealing with the stress of living with a mentally ill parent is essential. Taking care of your mental health will ensure that you can be there for your mother and provide her with the support she needs.

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Final Thoughts: Don’t Lose Yourself While Caring For A Mentally Ill Parent

Caring for a mentally ill parent can be incredibly difficult, and it’s essential to ensure that you are taking care of yourself too. Being there for your mother is admirable, but don’t lose yourself.

Take time to look after your mental health, recognize your triggers and reach out for help if you’re struggling. Doing this will ensure that you are better equipped to provide your mother’s support while also looking after yourself.

Being a supportive family member is essential, and taking time to care for your mental health will make it easier for you to be there for her in her time of need.

Reach out to the relevant mental health services when necessary, and always remember that you are not alone. There is a lot of support available for you and your mother, so never hesitate to seek assistance.


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