Cancer and Depression
A cancer diagnosis is an emotional earthquake, unleashing fear, anger, sadness, confusion and uncertainty. Your life has been turned upside-down, your future is at risk and at stake and you feel betrayed by your body. Your colleagues, family and friends are shocked and afraid and you must begin to deal with the extensive medical, financial and emotional hurdles involved with a cancer diagnosis.
It comes as no surprise that those diagnosed with cancer experience a roller coaster of feelings and emotions at the outset. However, if feelings of anger, sadness or emptiness persist for an extended period of time or if you are unable to get through your day, it may be beneficial to seek professional help.
Depression is a condition that affects many cancer patients at one point or another. In fact, up to 1 in 4 people with cancer do have clinical depression. Clinical depression causes great distress, impairs functioning, and may even make the person with cancer less able to follow their cancer treatment plan. The good news is that clinical depression can be treated.
If you are experiencing depression, speak to your doctor or a trusted friend. He or she can direct you toward trained mental health practitioners who will help you through these adjustments and treat your condition. You may also benefit from a support group to gain knowledge and share experiences with others in a similar situation. For many people, it helps to know you are not alone and to create a network of support and understanding. This may help you put your cancer in a new perspective and allow you to focus on healing and recovery. Check with your hospital and community to find a local support group. Many national advocacy groups sponsor local support groups.
For more information, please visit the American Cancer Society’s website for their definition of depression and suggestions for coping: http://tinyurl.com/CancerDepression
An advocacy group readers may want to check out is Mental Health America. Regular e-mail issues discuss diverse mental health problems and solutions.
To recognize depression, the following symptoms may be present:
– feelings of worthlessness
– detachment or absence of emotional response
– assumption of harmful behaviors or thoughts of suicide
– avoidance of friends, social events, or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
– changes in sleeping or eating
– irritability, bitterness or anger
– forgetfulness or lack of concentration
This list is not all inclusive. Symptoms lasting over six months are cause for concern. It can benefit caregivers to recognize warning signs of depression. Medication along with talk therapy can bring the most relief. If these symptoms are recognized or persist, it is best to ask the person to talk about how they are feeling and to empathize with them. Suggestions such as “I can feel your pain” are not entirely accurate because only the depressed person can know how they feel. “If you just…” is equally damaging. Acknowledging the person’s feelings and listening attentively will help to draw the person out and lead the person to seek further help.