Cancer is usually accompanied by difficult emotional experiences and changes in a person’s life. How can the news of the diagnosis, treatment and subsequent rehabilitation affect mental health? And why is the support of not only relatives, but also a psychologist so important?
PSYCHIATRIC CHANGES IN CANCER PATIENTS
Making a diagnosis and initiating treatment
The psychological impact of diagnosis itself is tremendous, regardless of the stage of the disease. Upon learning of the diagnosis, the person is disoriented, overly irritable, overly fatigued and hypersensitive. The mechanisms of subjective perception of one’s new status and condition are activated: anxiety over an unpredictable future arises, new circumstances make one constantly think about the disease and project various, mostly negative, scenarios in life.
In addition to feelings of extreme anxiety and hopelessness, somatic manifestations of stress – sleep disturbance and general fatigue – may also be involved. One of the central obsessive thoughts arises: “Why did this happen to me?” and doubts about the rightness of one’s actions arise in search of answers. During this period, people lose their usual bearings in life and are in dire need of understanding from family and friends.
Once treatment begins, psychological defence mechanisms kick in, some acceptance of one’s status and a fixation on the attitude “I am under the care of qualified doctors who will help me” emerges. During this period, it is crucial that this belief is reinforced by health workers and psychologists.
After the operation
For most people, the post-operative period becomes an “island of calm”, when worries temporarily subside. But at the same time, worries about work, family and everyday life can arise. Another traumatic factor can also be the fear of a possible relapse. In order to cope with negative experiences, it is necessary to focus on the “here and now” and to note positive changes in health.
After the operation, patients usually want to get back to normal life as quickly as possible, but the need to visit the doctor regularly and engage in additional therapy can make a significant difference.
It may also be at this time that you become isolated and lose interest in family matters and affairs. Events that used to bring him pleasure now become unimportant. This is due to adaptation to the new living conditions. There is no need to rush things: the best solution is to allow enough time for all necessary processes.
HOW A PSYCHOLOGIST CAN HELP
As mentioned above, each stage of treatment can produce a range of emotional and psychosomatic reactions that are not easy to cope with on your own. By working with a specialist, it will be easier for the patient to develop internal psychological resources to deal with the situation rationally. A psychologist can help him or her to understand the causes and mechanisms of these feelings, to find harmonious ways of overcoming them and to set the patient up for a constructive way forward.