Just the word strikes anxiety in most people. Some type of cancer affects almost every other American, with an alarmingly increasing diagnosis rate of 40 percent, according to cancer.net.
A cancer diagnosis can have a tremendous impact on most patients, their families, and caregivers. According to the American Cancer Society, onset of depression and anxiety is a common response to a cancer diagnosis.
What causes anxiety in patients with cancer?
For the patient, a cancer diagnosis often triggers a change in body image and even their sense of identity, which directly impacts self-esteem and confidence.
All of these feelings are factors that may contribute to depression and anxiety during such life-altering circumstances.
Other causes for anxiety in cancer patients are:
- Fear of treatment or treatment-related side effects
- Fear of cancer returning or spreading after treatment
- Worry over losing independence
- Concern about having relationships change
- Fear of suffering, pain, and death.
People who have anxiety experience both physical and emotional symptoms. Emotional symptoms include feelings of intense grief, distress, fear, dread and detachment from surroundings. Physical symptoms include pain, nausea and fatigue.
Over the course of treatment, which sometime spans years, uncertainty develops into chronic anxiety and panic attacks. Panic attacks occur when patients experience many anxiety symptoms all at once.
Effects on family and friends
It’s not only patients who develop anxiety after a diagnosis or during treatment. Family and friends often feel distressed about these things as well. They especially may harbor extra stress and frustrations from feeling as though they can’t do enough, or oppositely, feeling overwhelmed.
Cancer is not always preventable or unavoidable, but there are ways to cope and lessen cancer-based anxiety and depression. Social support is the most effective. People affected by cancer find it comforting and encouraging to have others who can listen and empathize with what they are going through. Other effective techniques include breathing, meditation, journaling or taking on a spiritual practice.
Many health practitioners recommend patients and their families to seek professional counseling to help navigate through the difficult emotions that affects each person. It is important to avoid substances such as alcohol or marijuana to relieve anxiety symptoms for risk of addiction.
Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?
One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.
But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.