Emotions of Cancer
Anxiety is a natural emotion that every living human being experiences. It can be described as the intense feeling of nervousness or worry, and it occurs when your natural instincts feel that there may be a threat. When anxiety becomes a long-term occurrence and heightens in intensity, it becomes a disorder and can interfere with the way in which you conduct your everyday life. Symptoms of anxiety can range from mild to severe, and in some cases may appear similar to the symptoms of depression. Often, anxiety and depression happen along side one another, so it can be difficult to differentiate between the two.
Cancer and anxiety
For many people, anxiety is a symptom that can be triggered cancer. This is an extremely overwhelming time, so it is natural to have intense emotions surrounding your diagnosis. You may have any number of the following feelings:
- Fear of cancer and the accompanying treatments and side effects
- Fear of relapse
- Uncertainty over your future
- Relationship struggles and changes
- Loss of independence
- Fear of the unknown
- Overwhelming feeling of mortality
All of these feelings are normal during this time. It is important, however, to ensure that your anxiety is under control, as it can make living with cancer even harder than it already is.
Acute anxiety is short bursts of anxiousness that resolve some what quickly. Symptoms of acute anxiety include:
- Intense feelings of fear
- A sense of detachment from your surroundings
- Heart palpitations or a fast/rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- The feeling of suffocation
- Difficulty breathing normally
In instances where you feel multiple of these symptoms at the same time, you may be experiencing a panic attack.
Chronic anxiety is the feeling of anxiety that is experienced over an extended period of time. A person with chronic anxiety may experience panic attacks as seen in acute anxiety, as well as any number of the following symptoms:
- Worrying extreme amounts
- Muscle twitching or tension
- Disrupted sleep or insomnia
- Difficulty concentrating
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to let your oncology team know. It is important to note, however, that these symptoms may not relate to anxiety, but could also be a side-effect of your cancer treatment.
Anxiety risk factors
As with most illnesses, some people are more genetically inclined to feel anxiety. Some risk factors can include:
- History of mental illness
- Family history of mental illness
- No support system in place
- Financial difficulties
Anxiety screening is a routine procedure that generally happens at the time of diagnosis for patients with cancer. This will also be closely monitored throughout your journey through treatment and recovery. Anxiety is not the same for everyone, and treatment will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how it is impacting your life as a whole. Always be open and honest about your mental health with your oncology team, as this will help you receive the best possible treatment.
Treatment for anxiety generally involves a range of techniques, although most cases of anxiety will be treated with a combination of three things: meditation, psychological treatment and medication.
Meditation focuses on relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and guided imagery in an attempt to calm the mind from its worries. Psychological treatment involves meeting with mental health professions such as psychologists or councilors to develop support and reshape a patient’s outlook on life. Finally, medication is available for patients whose symptoms are severe. Your doctor will prescribe your medication based on your personal needs. While the first two techniques are almost immediate, medication can take up to 8 weeks before it can take effect. This is why it is best to use a combination of treatments if you suffer from anxiety. It is also essential to note that medication does not cure anxiety, it simply lowers the symptoms. Psychological treatment is essential for progress.