Coping with anxiety and stress brought on by a mesothelioma diagnosis is never easy. The first people that you will turn to will understandably be your family, but avoid selling your caregivers short on how much they can help you cope with these difficult feelings. Sometimes, your doctor might not be available, but a nurse practitioner can listen to your difficulties and offer you tips on addressing these issues. Your family physician is also often a great source for psychological support and might even recommend another medical professional like a family therapist.
Remember, mesothelioma is a debilitating condition. In some situations, the mental challenges brought on by mesothelioma are more challenging to navigate than physical issues. Receiving any type of mesothelioma diagnosis is challenging for both the patient and the patient’s family, but coping with a diagnosis is even more challenging and can result in mental distress in people being treated for mesothelioma.
From unknown exposure to toxic materials to an eventual diagnosis, the process of contracting mesothelioma is an upsetting one. Many workers and others who were exposed to mesothelioma while at work experience feelings of anxiety and depression as well as anger. The psychological component of mesothelioma is something only recently that the medical community is beginning to understand so patients can improve their quality of life.
One independent mesothelioma group recently researched how exposure to asbestos and mental health issues are related in the field of construction, where many people are exposed to asbestos. A large number of workers came into contact with asbestos while working and were unknowingly placed in danger of being exposed to asbestos.
Asbestos, which is a naturally occurring material, can be found in various construction locations. When the mineral is inhaled, it can end up causing mesothelioma. Between inhaling mesothelioma and being diagnosed with mesothelioma can sometimes take as long as 50 years. When a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma, the individual is often in the later stages of the disease, which makes it more challenging to navigate.
The British Medicine Journal reports that as much as 10% of people treated for cancer experience anxiety while 20% of people encounter depression. Contracting mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure in addition to employer negligence can result in psychological issues.
The mental challenges experienced by people being treated for mesothelioma is often at its highest during the initial three months following diagnosis. During this time, patients often experience psychological turmoil as the difficulty of a diagnosis sinks in. People during this time often experience increased anxiety, depression, and anger related to the causative nature of the disease. People also might feel that the illness is out of their control and worry about the process of deterioration.
Additionally, a person must contend with physical symptoms and potentially having to pursue legal action against either a product manufacturer or employer. There is a great deal to contend with following a mesothelioma diagnosis. This is why it is understandable why patients require more emotional care than they are receiving.
Mental Health Awareness and Mesothelioma
A diagnosis of mesothelioma is frightening as well as shocking and uncomfortable for patients as well as the patient’s loved ones. The issue of mental distress in patients being treated for mesothelioma is gaining increased attention.
Based on an article published in The Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, lung-associated cancers more commonly result in higher levels of psychological distress when compared to other types of cancer. In one examination involving 49 men, each patient claimed substantial degrees of traumatic stress symptoms following diagnosis, suggesting that more research must be performed about how to help patients feel more relaxed with a prognosis.
Other research has examined how the psychological distress experienced by people being treated for mesothelioma is connected to social, physical, and emotional issues. Various papers argue that the danger of developing diseases related to asbestos exposure among subjects exposed to asbestos is connected to high levels of challenges related to mental health.
Mental Health Issues Commonly Associated with Mesothelioma
People who are diagnosed with mesothelioma experience a wide range of psychological hardships. One piece of research revealed that the period following a diagnosis of mesothelioma causes patients to experience a wide range of emotions including anger, shock, anxiety, anguish, and depression.
Depression is a medical condition that negatively influences not just how a person feels but also how that individual acts and thinks. The condition results in various challenges, which can hamper how a person functions both at work and on the job. Some of the most common symptoms associated with depression include feeling sad, losing interest in activities that were once pleasurable, appetite changes, getting too much or too little sleep, lowered energy levels, and difficulty focusing.
Anxiety disorders refer to mental health conditions that lead you to experience various negative emotions including nervousness and panic. Anxiety can lead to various disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder causes an individual to experience extreme worry or friction even when no real triggers exist for such feelings. Some symptoms associated with generalized anxiety disorder include difficulty sleeping and challenges with a person’s focus. People with panic disorders experience panic attacks, which come on suddenly and for unexpected reasons. These attacks involve difficulty breathing, sweating, pain in the chest, and heart palpitations. Obsessive-compulsive disorder involves intrusive fears and thoughts that lead a person to perform repetitive actions or compulsions sometimes to the extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life.
Anxiety and panic attacks are similar, but panic attacks often involve an isolated and singular episode of extreme anxiety. If someone is proceeding through a life obstacle, they might experience multiple panic attacks in a short period. Panic attacks include most or all symptoms of acute anxiety.
Emotional Support Exists for Mesothelioma Patients
The emotional well-being of patients is currently not being adequately serviced. Additionally, a lack of details about specialist palliative and supportive care exists. As is the case with any severe diagnosis, a person who is diagnosed with mesothelioma will likely feel alone in their fight, but systems exist to support patients. Various support groups have members who would welcome the chance to meet with others facing similar challenges. While loved ones can help, there’s something unique about meeting others who better understand how you feel and what you are experiencing.
Both trained and licensed therapists can help people who receive a mesothelioma diagnosis navigate mental health issues associated with the illness. Retaining a medical professional who can help the individual both open up and talk about these difficult emotions. Mental health professionals can also offer various effective methods including behavioral therapy to address various mental health issues.
Mental health professionals can offer various coping tools for people who must navigate these difficult emotions. CBT is one psychological technique utilized to navigate anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Research shows that CBT helps to improve a person’s functioning as well as the quality of life. People diagnosed with mesothelioma can participate in talk therapy, which is routinely offered in small group sessions or one-on-one.
Talk therapy, which is also referred to as psychotherapy, is a group of techniques that help people to both identifies as well as alter troublesome thoughts.
Utilizing Proper Diet and Exercise to Address
People who have mental health issues should consider a diet that is rich in whole foods because this will help to decrease the number and severity of depressive symptoms they experience. Some of the recommended foods for people with depression include foods rich in amino acids and omega-3. A few of the foods that include omega-3 include herring, salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Some examples of B vitamins include meat, eggs, poultry, nuts, and fish.
Besides eating a proper diet, engaging in plenty of physical exercises also helps people manage the various symptoms associated with depression. Studies suggest that exercise can help to release endorphins, which reduces anxiety and depression. Routine exercise also helps to take a person’s mind off their various worries and escape negative thoughts.
Medications Can Help to Tackle Anxiety and Stress
Medical professionals prescribe medications for people who are diagnosed with depression to address the various accompanying symptoms. Some of the medications that medical professionals routinely prescribe to help people dealing with mental health issues include:
- Atypical antidepressants: Some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants include Wellbutrin, Trintellix, and Remeron.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors: Medical professionals prescribe this group of medications when they find that other medications are not working. Some drugs in this category include Parnate, Marplan, and Nardil.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Medications in this family less often cause adverse effects at higher doses than other antidepressants. Some of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs include Zoloft, Prozac, and Celexa.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors: Medications in this group include Cymbalta, Effexor, Fetzima, and Pristiq.
- Tricyclic antidepressants. Medical professionals rarely prescribe medications in this category unless a person has already taken antidepressants and has not shown improvements. Some drugs in this group include Norpramin and Pamelor.
Locating the Appropriate Treatment Facility
Some medical centers do not have mesothelioma professionals on staff. In this situation, patients should not immediately transfer to another location. Instead, this scarcity suggests the rarity of medical providers in this area. If your medical provider does not have experience in treating mesothelioma, you should consider receiving a second opinion. Cancer centers can often help patients schedule appointments to receive a second opinion. The assistance of this kind includes sending medical records and blood tests to the consulting doctor.
Identifying Triggers for Anxiety and Depression
Weathering the mental health issues brought on by a mesothelioma diagnosis can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. Additionally, some people are at greater risk for distress than others people. Some factors that make an individual more likely to experience negative emotions include genetics, the physical side effects of treatment, and a predisposition for mental health issues.
Approximately half the people who are treated for cancer report feeling high levels of anxiety and distress. Patients often cite a high correlation to mental health and serious illness, though. When a person has high anxiety levels, this can make it challenging to deal with the accompanying symptoms. This is why it is a good idea for patients as well as their loved ones to promptly identify symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.
When a person experiences short intermittent symptoms, this is referred to as acute anxiety. Some of the most common symptoms associated with acute anxiety include feelings of dread, rapid heartbeat, pain in the chest, chills, nausea, and changes in appetite.
Anxiety that is chronic in nature and lasts for longer durations is often considered chronic. Some symptoms of chronic anxiety include restlessness, insomnia, fatigue, muscle tension, and difficulty focusing.
Coping Techniques for Anxiety
When mesothelioma patients experience anxiety attacks, it can make a substantial outcome if the patient is armed with coping strategies. When a person is in the middle of a panic, that individual might not be able to think straight which means that it might be close to impossible to improve the situation. Recovering yourself from this situation
Returning yourself from this period of panic and confusion is ground. If you experience anxiety some of the helpful coping techniques that you can utilize include:
- This strategy is underestimated, but an often effective coping technique. A few repeated breaths have the potential to break through a person’s thought process so the individual can regain control of his or her thinking. One type of breathing method is the 4-7-8 method, which involves the patient breathing in for four seconds, holding in the person’s breath for 7 seconds, and breathing out for 8 seconds. Many people report that the 4-7-8 strategy helps to deal with stress, insomnia, and anxiety.
- Alternate nostril breathing. This method involves controlled breathing by alternating which nostril is blocked.
- Mindfulness meditation. This type of structured breathing involves focusing on only the current moment and nothing before or after that.
- This is a type of natural breathing that guides your mind gently on a similar path.
- Guided imagery. This type of focused breathing is surrounded by both stories and happy recollections that can distract a person from various concerns.
- 5-4-3-2-1. Some medical professionals recommend this technique to patients who then utilize their five senses to ground themselves during difficult moments. Focusing on elements in these categories distracts your mind as well as forces it to process new thoughts, which can then erase distressing feelings. Working backward, you try to notice five different things that you can see and acknowledge. After this, you focus on four things you can do. Then three things you can hear, two things you smell, and finally one thing that you can taste. After going through this list, many people find that they are calm.
- Utilizing your senses is one method of coping that proves successful for many people. Aromatherapy relies on a person’s sense of smell. When aromatherapy is utilized, patients can use incense, oil, or candles. By activating these things when your stress levels are high, you can take control of things.
Not all people are impacted in the same way by these coping strategies. Some people do not experience any feelings at all.
Meditation To Deal with Mental Health Challenges
Meditation is a technique through which a person focuses his or her attention on a specific thing. This is designed to take your attention away from distressing thoughts. Multiple studies have shown that the health benefits of mediation are available to anyone. Some of these benefits include a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress markers. Meditation’s effects on cancer patients have been examined as well. One study determined that people with cancer who meditate have a better quality of life than those who do not. In this examination, meditation substantially improved both the emotional and physical well-being of patients.
Many people with cancer find meditation attractive as a result of its convenience. Unlike other stress management strategies, patients can practice meditation wherever they go and whenever they want. Today, many free and low-cost apps exist to help individuals learn about how to practice meditation.
Acupuncture as a Method of Dealing with Anxiety and Depression
Acupuncture is a method through which small needs are inserted into specific parts of a person’s body. These needles have proven to help address various symptoms including pain. Many people use acupuncture in combination with cancer treatment. Researchers have drawn links between acupuncture and various benefits including lessened fatigue, pain, nausea, and sleep problems. People with cancer who are interested in acupuncture should consider discussing this procedure with their medical team.
Pursuing Counseling as a Mesothelioma Patient
Counseling is another good option for patients being treated for mesothelioma. While counseling can be performed one-on-one, it can also be done with a patient and his or her family. Counseling can be scheduled by a physician to let patients speak both openly and directly about how they are addressing their diagnosis. During these sessions, patients can also learn various coping techniques that will help them address daily challenges.