Getting diagnosed with ‘cancer’ can be the most challenging experience for most, even though most cancers are not fatal.
The disease not only affects the body but adversely impacts one’s emotional and psychological health too. This brings to fore the importance of counselling patients and their families to help them tide over the difficult period.
Dr Hardeep Singh, Department of Mental Health, Fortis Hospital Mohali, discusses therapy options to process the cancer crisis.
How cancer affects mental health
Just like diagnosing cancer at an early stage increases the chances for successful treatment, the same holds true for mental health conditions. It is estimated that one-third of all cancer patients have a common mental health condition, yet only a small percentage report the same.
Once diagnosed with cancer, almost every patient goes through phases of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is important that each stage is addressed appropriately. A patient who is suffering from depression or intense anxiety is less likely to follow treatment plans or even take the preventive screening. Also, they may indulge in lesser physical activity, or take too much alcohol or smoke. There is evidence to suggest that positive mental health improves the outcome of cancer treatment.
Cancer patients battle with depression, despair, anxiety, self-image, body image, and intimacy.
Talking to a mental health professional is recommended for early detection and resolution of the same. While it is natural for someone to feel despair, bouts of prolonged sadness along with low energy levels, loss of interest, pessimistic ideas, sleep issues, and loss of libido, are likely to cause depression and require medical intervention.
How does therapy help
At times, the treatment may involve medication though most patients benefit from individual counselling sessions. Some patients require specialized therapy called Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Group therapy sessions are another way of addressing milder psychological conditions.
Motivation is the key
Cancer patients need to be motivated as keeping a positive mindset helps fight the disease. Patients should remain physically active and go for daily walks, eat a balanced diet, socialise and engage in dialogue with friends and family. Talking helps alleviate fears or stigma associated with cancer.
Stressing on maintaining a positive mindset, Dr Singh, said, “If the need arises, one should not shy away from taking professional help. Maintain a regular routine and indulge in activities that make you feel happy. This can go a long way in improving your health.”