Depression and Anxiety With Cancer

Hand reaching towards a depressed woman at home

Upon hearing the news of their diagnosis, many cancer patients may develop and suffer from depression and/or anxiety. While these feelings are very common and to be expected, it is important that the patient receives proper psychiatric care alongside their cancer treatment. Depression and anxiety in cancer patients should not be disregarded, as it can hinder their ability to fully recover. It is important that the patient is able to improve both their physical and mental health concurrently.

People diagnosed with cancer often have anxieties over their diagnosis, their changing body, the pain they may be experiencing, the amount of outside stressors, and the reactions of the people around you. However when these feelings are exhibited in a certain way, it may be indicative of something more serious.

Clinical depression is different from sadness and is characterized by a sense of hopelessness, a lack of interest in things that used to bring joy, insomnia or hypersomnia (not sleeping or sleeping too much), irritability, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, significant weight loss or gain, and suicidal thoughts or feelings.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by episodes of severe anxiety, usually known as panic attacks. Panic attacks combine anxiety with physical symptoms like shortness of breath, racing heart, sweating, dizziness, nausea, trembling, and feelings of unreality.

Depending on the individual, certain people may predisposed to developing depression or anxiety with their cancer diagnosis. If you are already suffering from depression or anxiety before your diagnosis, you will most likely continue to exhibit those symptoms. Also, if your pain is not well controlled, you are physically weakened by the cancer, you have an advanced form of cancer or poor prognosis, or you feel like a burden to others, you may have higher risk of developing depression or anxiety. Certain medications, such as Corticosteroids, Procarbazine, L-asparaginase, Interferon alfa, Interleukin-2, and Amphotericin B, can also cause depression or anxiety.

If you are suffering from depression or anxiety after news of your diagnosis, there are things that can be done to help alleviate some of your symptoms. If you have already been affected before the diagnosis, you may be able to continue the same treatment option or you may choose to modify accordingly. If this is your first time experiencing depression or anxiety, your doctor may recommend counseling as a starting point.

Some patients find talk therapy to be beneficial to their health. There are both group and individual options. Group options provide a sense of mutual support and common understanding, while individual sessions provide a more private setting. Both types of sessions will help establish coping and problem solving skills, relaxation skills, provide ways to rid yourself of negative thoughts, and  provide support and acceptance.

If you feel like you may be experiencing depression or anxiety symptoms in regards to your diagnosis, it is important that you talk to your doctor about what can be done. Managing these symptoms is an integral part of your overall health and well-being.