Cancer-related depression: What can I do about it?
Depression can be hard to spot. In fact, it can sound a lot like the sadness, fear, and anxiety you’d expect to accompany a cancer diagnosis. However, if you keep canceling that friend who wants to meet for dinner, or find it increasingly difficult to get out of bed in the morning, you may be experiencing something more serious than grief. Depression can be linked to cancer, as it affects one in four cancer patients.
Says Catherine Beckett, MD, a licensed clinical social worker and chair of the Department of Mind and Mind • Body at Cancer Centers. of America® (CTCA). “But clinical depression is different from sadness, with specific criteria and symptoms, and it can make it difficult for patients to seek treatment in the first place, or to stay in treatment once it has started.” It’s important to recognize signs of depression early on to prevent it from affecting your quality of life and possibly even the outcome of your treatment.
Causes and symptoms
As a cancer patient, you can develop clinical depression for a variety of reasons, including concerns about your diagnosis, the amount of pain you’re in, your family’s history of depression or other mental health problems, and the number of external stressors you experience. experimentation. You experience it and the amount of support you receive from the people around you. Perhaps cancer treatment is changing your body in ways you don’t like, or treatment appointments are keeping you from attending the yoga class you look forward to each week.
Symptoms of depression include:
- feeling hopeless
- Lack of interest in activities that you normally enjoy.
- Insomnia (interrupted sleep) or “hypersomnia” (excessive sleep) and persistent tiredness
- Irritability, difficulty concentrating and/or memory.
- Unexplained significant weight gain or loss, or changes in appetite
- Suicidal thoughts or feelings, or recurring thoughts of death
The effects of depression can be serious. You may get to the point where you feel it is not worth treating or you no longer want to burden your caregivers. Some cancer patients with poor quality of life, especially those who do not receive treatment for depression, may be at risk of suicide. That’s why it’s important to identify and treat the signs.
If you have any symptoms of depression, find a mental health professional licensed to help you deal with your feelings, Dr. Buckett advises. You may want to ask a doctor, trusted friend, chaplain, or local health center for a referral. Mental health professionals can help you manage depression with social support and professional help, such as counseling, medicine, exercise and meditation.
Caregivers are affected too
Cancer patients are not the only ones who should be on the lookout for depression. It often affects caregivers as well. Many of those caring for loved ones who have cancer report feeling helpless and confused, either because they find it difficult to watch their loved ones suffer, or because they do not receive the medical training needed to care for their loved ones, or because they don’t know how or what to do to help, says Dr. . “Caregivers are encouraged to make things as easy for them as possible at home, such as by relaxing their cleaning standards, while they are in care,” she says. “You may also find it helpful to discuss your feelings with someone who will listen and take care of themselves and your loved ones, even when it is difficult to find the time or energy to do so.”
Depression is also common among cancer survivors, sometimes even long after treatment has ended. Fear of the cancer returning, the physical effects of previous treatments, or survivors’ feelings of guilt can make you vulnerable to depressive thoughts or feelings. To help ease these feelings, try spending time with the people you love, making time in your day for fun, and making regular exercise a part of your routine. Also look for opportunities to share your feelings with someone instead of letting them build up inside of you. “Sharing difficult things with someone else can help reduce the burden,” says Dr. Paquette.