Depression and Anxiety
It’s normal to feel a range of emotions during treatment, including sadness or anxiety. You could find yourself feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. You might have constant concerns about cancer, treatments, your survival or your family. Or, you might think the same thoughts over and over, finding it hard to concentrate or sleep.
As you move forward, uncomfortable feelings will probably come and go, then lessen and, at some point, should go away. This may not always be the case, so it’s important for you to recognize when your reactions are normal and when they may be more intense than you might expect. Depression and anxiety are often serious medical conditions that can be treated effectively.
If you feel very anxious, your worries about breast cancer might intrude on other areas of your life that feel unrelated.
With an anxiety disorder, you may experience these symptoms:
- You feel as if you are in a constant state of tension or worry.
- Your worries shift from one problem to another.
- You have trouble managing your worries and concerns.
- You feel restless, “keyed up” or edgy.
- You feel fatigued or become tired easily.
- You have trouble concentrating.
- You feel irritable.
- You have trouble falling or staying asleep or wake up feeling as if you have not slept well.
You don’t have to have all of these symptoms to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
It’s understandable for you to feel sadness over cancer and cancer treatment. You may feel you will always be “stuck” where you are, that certain parts of breast cancer and treatment will be constants in your life. You may have trouble sleeping, or find yourself sleeping too much. In day-to-day life, you might be irritable, impatient or, on the other hand, numb and slow to react to emotional situations.
Some people have major depression during the course of treatment. Different from a few days of feeling “down” or “blue,” major depression means your sadness lasts for weeks or months. It can interfere severely with your daily living and quality of life. If you are feeling this way, talk with your doctor or a therapist to find out if counseling or medicine to help your mood and functioning may be right for you.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Continued sadness, depressed mood or crying
- Trouble getting motivated
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Feeling guilty, hopeless, helpless or worthless
- Inability to feel pleasure or have fun
- Sleeping too much or too little, or trouble falling or staying asleep
- Lack of energy
- Change in appetite
- Less interest in sex or intimacy
- Problems with concentration
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Keep in mind that that you don’t have to have all or most of these symptoms to be diagnosed with depression.
If you feel anxious or depressed, the most important first step is to let your healthcare team know how you feel. They can help you get the treatment you need to help with anxiety, depression, or both. Some of the approaches they might recommend include:
If you are feeling hopeless and helpless and think you are in danger of hurting yourself, we strongly encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. This free hotline, a service of Mental Health America, is staffed with trained counselors day and night. Call right away if you:
- Have thoughts of wanting to hurt or kill yourself
- Are looking for ways to kill yourself
Also call if you have these symptoms that lead some people to want to end their lives and increase the risk for suicide:
- You feel hopeless, can’t control your anger or feel as if there is no way out.
- You are doing more risky things.
- You are using alcohol or drugs more often and too much.
- You have extreme mood changes.
- You tend to isolate yourself from friends and loved ones.
- You lose your sense of purpose in life.