What is depression?
Depression is a common but serious medical condition characterized by feelings of sadness, emptiness, irritability, restlessness or being tired; weight loss or gain; decreased interest in activities; chronic pain that does not get better with treatment. Sometimes, depression may lead to suicidal thoughts. Depression is common among cancer patients who may be struggling with fear about their mortality, finances and even legal issues.
How likely are cancer patients to experience depression?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that one in 4 cancer patients suffer from clinical depression. In fact, the ACS says the majority of cancer patients, their families and caregivers experience some form of anxiety, fear or depression. According to the National Cancer Institute, patients are at greater risk for depression if they:
- Have been diagnosed with metastatic or pancreatic cancer
- Experience poorly controlled cancer-related pain
- Are taking specific medications
- Have become physically compromised by their disease
How can integrative care help?
Mind-body therapists at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) are trained to work with cancer patients. They understand how debilitating and disruptive depression can be, and the implications it can have on treatment, healing and recovery. These therapists support patients by guiding couples and families who may be working through disappointments; feelings of loss or hopelessness; challenges or big decisions that may accompany a life-threatening illness. They may also refer patients to a psychiatrist for more in-depth treatment. The ways mind-body therapists may help patients alleviate depression include:
- Talk therapy, one on one, with couples and/or with families
- Breathing and relaxation techniques
- Guided imagery, which uses visualization techniques to help patients find peace and calm
- Emotional Freedom Therapy (EFT), which is designed to relieve the emotional and physical pain associated with depression by targeting certain acupressure points throughout the body