A diagnosis of cancer understandably leads to a virtual roller coaster of mixed emotions. Fear and anxiety are typically at the forefront, and an uncertainty about the future can often affect the patient’s heart and mind. A feeling of anger is not unusual, as patients try to understand why they have been stricken with the disease. But one of the most debilitating of emotions that can accompany a diagnosis of cancer is, of course, depression.
Depression affects many cancer patients throughout their struggle with the disease, both at the initial diagnosis stage and throughout their subsequent treatment. While this is certainly understandable, it is also detrimental to the overall health of the patient and can seriously impact the success of any treatments. The mind body connection is so powerful, that depression can actually impede the progress of any given treatment, and can impair the body’s ability to heal itself. That is why it is so important for cancer patients and their family and friends, to recognize the symptoms of depression and learn some natural techniques for treating it effectively.
Symptoms of Depression in Cancer Patients
Depression in cancer patients is not uncommon. However, due to the physical symptoms of many types of cancer is can be difficult to recognize. Chronic fatigue and pain can often be attributed to the disease itself, and the inherent depression goes unrecognized. The important thing to remember for cancer patients, and their care givers, is that depression can sneak up on a person and manifest itself in subtle ways. Consider the following most common symptoms of depression in cancer patients.
- Anxiety or prolonged sadness
- Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Changes in appetite
- Unusual weight loss or gain
- Fatigue, over and above that associated with the cancer treatment
- Social isolation
Any combination of these symptoms may indicate the onset of chronic depression, and should be addressed immediately. Not only for the patient’s peace of mind, but for their overall health. Depression saps the body’s strength, and will naturally retard its ability to respond to treatment and begin the healing process.
Natural Treatments for Depression
Conventional medicine often prefers to treat cancer patient’s depression with chemicals, prescribing antidepressants to help people cope. The trouble with chemical antidepressants is that they often have adverse side effects, and can often lead to unwanted complications. Consider the following natural alternatives to chemical antidepressants for the treatment of depression in cancer patients.
- Eating a Healthy Diet – It may seem like a small thing, but a well balanced vegetarian diet can have a positive effect on a person’s mental well-being. A poor diet can rob the body and the mind of the vitality, making it harder to meet depression head on and triumph over it.
- Exercise – Recent studies have shown that exercise is a powerful tool in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Regular exercise releases endorphins that can boost the body’s energy levels and improve a person’s mood. While regular exercise may seem daunting for some cancer patients, every little bit helps even if it is only a few laps in the pool or a brisk walk around the block.
- The Mind-Body Connection – The mind and the body are more closely connected than many people realize. Certain relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and meditation, can help to relax the body and invigorate the mind. Even something as simple as keeping a daily journal can help to release negative thoughts and energy, freeing the body from chronic depression.
- Spirituality – Spirituality is one of the most powerful tools available when confronting depression. Regular prayer sessions can help to alleviate fear and anxiety, while establishing a sense of calm and engendering a more positive mood and outlook. Meditation on God’s word also helps to release the body’s own natural healing energies which hitherto had been diverted, or retarded, by the ongoing sense of depression.
Untreated depression can have a severe impact on a cancer patient’s ability to cope with, and recover from, their disease. It is important to understand that depression is not merely a matter of feeling sad, it is a condition that affects the entire body. Left untreated, it can rob the body of its ability to respond to treatment and heal itself. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, or are the care giver of someone with cancer, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of depression and to address them immediately. Depression, whether it accompanies a chronic disease or not, can be beaten by faith and devotion to a healthy lifestyle.