- Question from Jemima B: How can I tell the difference between normal anxiety and fear around breast cancer and what would be defined as depression that warrants professional help?
- Answers - Rosalind Kleban, L.C.S.W. There is a great deal of normal anxiety and depression surrounding a diagnosis of breast cancer. The anxiety and/or depression that is worrisome, and that warrants outside help, is the kind that interferes with a person's daily life. If a person can't continue having dinner with her family, or can't interact normally with friends and family, or go to a movie even if she feels well enough physically, or is unable to sleep or sleeps all day, that signals depression. If any of these extreme disturbances go on for a long period of time, I think it's important to speak to a physician about what could be done to help deal with this.
- Diane Thompson I agree. When we think of depression we often ask patients about changes in appetite and energy. However, a patient going through chemotherapy may already have problems with appetite and energy. One of the most important things we look for is a change in a patient's ability to enjoy herself. There's a word we often use—the term is "anhedonia." This means lack of pleasure. It's important to let your doctor know if you are not experiencing pleasure in things that you normally enjoy.
- Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. It's important to find somebody on your healthcare team to speak to about your feelings. Your doctor, your nurse, your social worker—these are all people that you can talk to. You can get a sense from them about whether what you're feeling is normal, or signals real depression.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Overcoming Depression featured Rosalind Kleban, M.S.W., Diane S. Thompson, M.D., and Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. answering your questions about medication and lifestyle changes that can ease depression along with to put hope, fun, and pleasure back into your life during and after breast cancer treatment.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in March 2003.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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