How to Deal with Depression

People with a serious illness often feel down or sad, and these feelings can be short-lived and pass in a couple of days. Depression, on the other hand, lasts for a long time and causes strong feelings of sadness, irritability or loss of interest and interferes with your ability to get through the day.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Difficulty enjoying things
  • Physical symptoms-back pain, headaches
  • Changes in sleep  
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Wanting to get away from everything  
  • Poor appetite or eating too much
  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Disturbed sleep
Longer recovery times and long-term side effects from cancer treatments can leave you feeling sad and isolated. These feelings often worsen when family, friends and co-workers expect you to return to “normal” after treatment.

Cancer survivors are more likely to feel low and struggle with feelings of depression around specific times, including follow-up visits, near anniversary dates (one year after diagnosis, treatment, etc.) or when thinking about cancer coming back or spreading.

While it’s normal to feel cancer-related stress during survivorship, depression rarely goes away on its own — even after treatment ends. This medical condition deserves the same care given to any other serious health issue, including seeking professional help.

More Information

Do I Need Help? Ask Yourself:

  • Has my mood been down on most days lately?
  • Do I get angry easily?
  • Do I find it hard to enjoy things as much these days?
  • Do I feel sluggish?
  • Do I feel hopeless about the future?
If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, take action by talking with your doctor, nurse or survivorship healthcare team about how you’ve been feeling, particularly your low mood. Your provider can refer you to additional services, such as psychiatry and psychology, or you can speak with a social worker by calling the Division of Clinical Social Work at 626-256-4673, ext. 62282.

Staying active often improves sleep and reduces stress, depression and anxiety. Additionally, many women find it helpful to meet survivors through online support groups, including ABCD Breast Cancer Support and Imerman Angels.

The Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center offers classes, music and art therapy, support groups and more to help you deal with your feelings. Visit the center at the Duarte campus in the Main Medical building behind the guest services desk or call 626-218-2273.