Surviving through cancer is a challenging journey. Aside from the mounting cost and physical exhaustion of undergoing treatment, the disease’s mere diagnosis can severely affect a person’s mental health. It makes you fearful, anxious, sad, or angry.
While these feelings are valid and expected, cancer patients are prone to developing various mental illnesses when improperly managed. Among these conditions are depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.
Psychological conditions could worsen the patient’s battle with cancer dramatically; that is why taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. It may not be the first time you will hear this, but we could not stress enough how important a healthy mind is in achieving a healthy body, and vice versa.
Common Mental Health Problems With Cancer
What are the common mental health problems among cancer patients, and what are their symptoms?
Depression is the most prevalent mental health issue with cancer patients. It causes extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and demotivation.
Feeling down and disinterested are normal emotions, especially with chronic illnesses. Still, if the feeling lasts throughout the day for at least two weeks straight, it could be a sign of a clinical depression already.
Anxiety is another normal emotion felt among cancer patients. As you get diagnosed with cancer, you tend to fear for your life and worry about your relationships and plans. Your body responds to stress in the form of anxiety. However, frequent episodes of anxiety with or without the presence of a real threat are unhealthy for our well-being.
What are the common symptoms that cancer patients experience when they have anxiety?
- Feelings of uncertainty
- Fear of death and side-effects from treatment procedures
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep-related sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Cancer-Related Post-traumatic Stress
This condition is like a less severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced by patients during or after cancer treatment. Like PTSD, cancer patients may develop some form of trauma towards everything to do with cancer because of various stressful events.
These events include the adverse effects of the treatment process, financial costs, impact on social relationships, and goals. In the presence of a trigger, symptoms of cancer-related post-traumatic stress include:
- Development of uncomfortable and intolerable feelings
- Nightmares and flashbacks
- Shifting to self-destructive behaviors such as alcoholism or smoking
- Inability to concentrate or think clearly
These psychological conditions’ symptoms are very similar to symptoms of cancer itself. It is for this reason why most mental health conditions are left unaddressed and undiagnosed.
Apart from this, even if symptoms are present, some cancer patients chose not to disclose it to anyone. Some of them feel that bringing them up would be a waste of time for other people. On top of all these cancer-related mental health issues, cancer patients alarmingly have a higher risk of committing suicide.
If you have been experiencing some of these symptoms, do not feel bad. However, to improve your overall condition, you should also undergo appropriate emotions and thought management just as you receive your cancer treatment.
Benefits Of Good Mental Health For Cancer Patients
We have emphasized the connection between our mind and body and its possible effects. But so far, what do studies tell us about the benefits of good mental health in surviving cancer?
- Taking Care of Your Mental Health Helps Prevent Cancer
Cancer may be hereditary or a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Different factors can cause cancer, but prevention is better than cure.
Several studies show how keeping a good mental health condition can do wonders for your immune system—for example, calming your mind through relaxation methods, such as yoga/meditation, kick-off the body’s tissue repair action. Tissue regeneration can prevent the development of tumors and cancer, as well as other diseases.
Furthermore, a study found that people experiencing psychosocial problems also tend to have difficulties sleeping. In turn, lack of sleep can make a person moody, develop heart problems, and increase cancer risk. Whereas, a stable mood condition leads to good sleeping and productivity habits, which later on leads to better health.
- A Stable Mental Health Improves A Cancer Patient’s Survival Rate
The mortality rate is also higher among cancer patients with a prior diagnosis of a psychological disorder. Why is this so?
– The burden of dealing with psychological stress and diagnosis could worsen how a person sees and handles his/her whole cancer diagnosis.
– Patients with prior psychological disorders can also be uncooperative. If they are more addicted or fixated to unhealthy coping practices such as binge drinking, they are less likely to show up on checkups religiously.
– Cancer patients who are having financial problems may be at more risk in developing psychological issues. However, reaching out to them can still be hard. Systems in place may not be capable of meeting the gap between available assistance and patients’ needs.
Healthy Ways To Psychologically Cope-Up With Cancer
Having said all the ways psychological health can affect our physical health, it is still not too late to make some changes even if you are currently battling cancer or any other chronic illness. Here are some self-help tips you can do to reframe your perspective and improve your mental health:
Create a mechanism to increase your self-awareness, mood, feelings, and thought processes. You can do this by keeping a journal or a diary. In this way, hopefully, you will be able to analyze and rethink your self-destructive thoughts.
- Meditation And Breathing Exercises
Meditation can improve your blood flow while slow, mindful breathing exercises can help calm your mind. Do this whenever you are feeling anxious or worried about your condition. Remember: stress and worries would not do you good.
- Seek Help
Lastly, seek professional service and a reliable social support system you can count on whenever you are on the verge of losing hope.