Breast cancer isn’t just a physical condition. For many, it’s an emotional and psychological experience that can profoundly affect your mental health and the lives of your family and friends. Understanding the common psychological reactions and implementing positive coping strategies can help those with breast cancer better manage their mental health during treatment and recovery. Continue reading to delve into the mental and emotional repercussions of breast cancer and viable strategies to cope.
Common Psychological Effects of Breast Cancer
Shock and Denial
The initial news of a breast cancer diagnosis often leads to feelings of shock, disbelief, and denial. It’s not uncommon to have difficulty absorbing or accepting the reality of the diagnosis at first. It’s a natural defense mechanism, but over time, accepting the reality of the situation is crucial for treatment and emotional healing.
Fear and Anxiety
As the reality sets in, breast cancer patients frequently struggle with intense fear and anxiety. The uncertainty surrounding diagnosis and prognosis — pain, side effects, the fear of the cancer metastasizing, and the possibility of recurrence — can foster anxiety.
Some breast cancer patients experience feelings of anger at their diagnosis. Anger can arise from the seeming randomness or unfairness of a cancer diagnosis. You may direct anger at your doctors or loved ones. A professional therapist can help you express your anger in healthy ways to avoid directing it inward.
Sadness and Depression
Breast cancer patients are at an increased risk of experiencing sadness and depression compared to the general population. Causes include hormonal factors from cancer treatments, stress, grief over the potential alterations in body image and lifestyle, and the trauma of the diagnosis.
Another consequence many people with breast cancer face is social isolation due to withdrawal from their social circles, which may be caused by physical discomfort or medical vulnerability, like being immunocompromised. Some patients avoid social activities and interaction during treatment. Finding social support is essential to counter these feelings.