Mental Effects Of Cancer You Might Have Not Known
Do you know that cancer and mental illness are interconnected? Almost everyone with a cancer diagnosis feels anxious due to the uncertainty. Mental effects of cancer are tremendous as it creates a massive disruption in daily lives and threatens one’s sense of security. Even though we see many success stories about cancer recovery and most of the cancers are treatable, it still instills fear among newly diagnosed patients.
How are both mental health and cancer related? Let us find out.
What Is The Connection Between Mental Health And Cancer?
It is tough to come to terms with a cancer diagnosis. People diagnosed with cancer are at a greater risk of suffering from mental illnesses which further affect their treatment and recovery.
Mental effects of cancer are significant, often pushing patients and their loved ones to compromise their quality of life. Most people experience intense sadness and worry, but some people may develop mental health disorders. Many people, including health care professionals, ignore symptoms of mental health problems as an emotional reaction to the cancer diagnosis and tend to focus on treating cancer. While being prompt for cancer treatment is crucial, seeking cancer mental health support from a registered mental health practitioner is also essential.
Some factors that deteriorate mental health in cancer patients:
1. Unexpected diagnosis: It is a known fact that nobody expects a cancer diagnosis. Especially those who follow healthy routines can find it quite hard to cope with this sudden diagnosis. It instantly triggers fear of uncertainty, extreme sadness, hopelessness and significant depression.
2. Healthcare costs: This one is quite obvious. Cancer treatments tend to cause financial strain. High healthcare costs are an additional burden that adds to the helpless situation of the patient and further enables depression. With the increasing expenses, some might find it hard to manage finances to seek help for their mental health, which worsens the situation.
3. Pain: Pain is an inevitable symptom during cancer therapy. Higher the level of pain, the greater the risk of depression.
4. Employment status: Your current professional status, salary, and work schedule could be affected due to cancer. As discussed earlier, cancer treatments do cost a lot and being financially stable to afford the medicine can reduce the risk of mental illness to a great extent.
5. Pre-existing mental health problems: The presence of a mental health disorder like anxiety or depression even before cancer can act as a trigger when the cancer diagnosis is confirmed. The diagnosis could bring back the mental health conditions by triggering feelings of sadness and fear.
6. Stressful life events: Living with cancer causes extreme stress in the long run. Additionally, stressful experiences like losing loved ones, career problems, financial constraints etc, during cancer treatment can lead to further stress and anxiety.
7. Time of diagnosis: The time at which cancer is diagnosed matters a lot. If the symptoms are severe or if the cancer is at an advanced stage the first time it is detected, it triggers anxiety and deteriorates the quality of life in patients. Sometimes, late effects like secondary cancer, chronic pain, and infertility can occur after the treatment course is completed, eventually leading to further decline in mental health.
8. Functional decline: Cancer causes massive body weakness that makes a person to give up their interests, skills, and abilities. They often become dependent on others to complete everyday tasks due to a lack of energy.Their inability creates an additional psychological burden on the patient.
9. Coping behaviour: How you deal with the diagnosis matters. For most people, cancer diagnosis and their life after diagnosis are similar to the grieving process. Some patients experience post-traumatic stress disorder while others feel extreme tiredness due to anxiety, depression and side effects of cancer treatments.
Cancer And Mental Illness:
Cancer and mental illness go hand in hand. In an article published by Kar SK, Thakur M, it was stated that the mental effects of cancer could be so severe to the extent that it triggers the patient to even commit suicide.
Cancer patients are more liable to mental illnesses during cancer treatments. They may undergo anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, etc. among which anxiety and depression are more common. All mental illnesses generally have common symptoms like extreme tiredness, lack of proper sleep, low appetite, etc., and it becomes difficult to diagnose mental health problems immediately. Let us find out how cancer increases the risk of mental illnesses:
1. Anxiety: Once your diagnosis is confirmed, you might experience a range of emotions and fears about whether the treatment will work and what will happen in the future. Feeling anxious causes sleep disturbances and other problems that result in depression.
2. Depression: The possibility of a patient getting into depression depends on the type of cancer, stage and treatment method. Depression in a cancer patient is significantly different from depression in other individuals. Stress beyond a person’s coping ability increases the risk of developing a major depressive disorder.
When an individual is experiencing depression, he/she loses interest in activities which they previously used to enjoy. They go through intense sadness and depressed mood for a minimum of two weeks. Depression also stops one from following a structured treatment schedule as they lose interest in everything. Depressive patients are less likely to go for screening, exercise and follow a diet plan.
Practical Tips For Coping With Mental Effects Of Cancer:
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be psychologically distressing which may even lead to suicidal behaviours. Though it may be difficult for you to cope with your mental health decline, focusing on one thing at a time helps a little. Make sure that you do the following essential things every day:
- Get dressed up every day.
- Try to eat properly.
- Follow an exercise routine.
- Regularize your sleep pattern.
- Take some “me” time every day.
- Make a to-do list every day.
- Write down every small goal you accomplish.
- Contact your mental health professional if you feel low.
- Do not take any medicines on your own without consulting your physician.
- Keep in touch with your loved ones.
- Contact your dietician or doctor immediately if you have problems with eating or appetite.
Seeking Cancer Mental Health Support:
Most of the healthcare practitioners focus primarily on providing appropriate treatment on time that cancer mental health support often takes a backseat. The psychological distress a patient faces after diagnosis is often brushed off as a natural emotional reaction. Paying attention to your mental health at the right time can improve the possibility of recovery and survival.
Every time you consult your doctor for your symptoms, ensure that you get a proper mental health assessment done. If anybody close to you is suffering from cancer symptoms, understand and give importance to their mental wellbeing. Strong emotional and moral support by friends and family goes a long way.