Finding Emotional Support

Receiving a cancer diagnosis and battling cancer can be a very distressing experience. Even if an individual’s cancer is thought to be cured, there is still a risk of the cancer recurring or a second cancer developing. Additionally, some of the side-effects from common prostate cancer treatment options, including sexual dysfunction, bowel or urinary incontinence, and hot flashes, can greatly impact a man’s quality of life. All of these factors can lead to significant mental and emotional distress. It has been estimated that nearly 30% of individuals with prostate cancer experience mental or emotional distress, with roughly 25% reporting increased anxiety, and 10% being diagnosed with major depressive disorder.1

The way an individual experiences and handles these feelings varies greatly from person to person. For some, these emotions may be self-manageable, but for others, they may increase until outside support is needed. Whatever your specific situation is, it is important to reach out for support when you’re feeling down, scared, or overwhelmed. Overall wellness goes beyond physical health. Your emotions and mental state can greatly impact your quality of life and ability to handle stressful situations, such as a prostate cancer battle, as well as even your physical health. Remaining as positive as possible, staying informed, taking the journey a day at a time, and seeking additional emotional support outlets can make a big difference.

Communicate with those around you

If you find yourself feeling depressed, anxious, scared, or overwhelmed by your emotions, it’s time to reach out for support. One of the first, and sometimes hardest, steps in the process is opening up to others. How much information you choose to share, and who you choose to share it with is completely up to you. Additionally, communicating with others doesn’t have to mean that you’re severely struggling. Instead, you may just want to have a conversation about role changes in the household to keep things running smoothly, or ask for a partner to eat healthier or exercise with post-treatment to help you with healthy living post treatment.

Emotional support does not have to be exclusive to those who are experiencing mental distress. For many, extra emotional support can act as a preventative measure to reduce the risk of developing severe depression and anxiety later on. Seeking emotional support is normal and encouraged. It does not mean you cannot handle your situation on your own, but rather, that you recognize the need to nourish all aspects of your health.

Sources of support

There are various sources of support and individual may choose to seek. Several of these include:

Healthcare team

For many individuals, their healthcare team is the first stop when seeking emotional support. Your doctors may be able to help you medically manage feelings of anxiety or depression, as well as recommend various counselors, therapists, or support groups in your area.

Mental health professionals

Mental health professionals include a wide variety of individuals. They can range from clinical psychiatrists who can prescribe medications, to therapists or counselors who will talk with you about your concerns and feelings. Some mental health professionals may be in a more clinical setting, while others may have more relaxed or home-like locations. It is completely up to you what environment you seek out. Also, you can choose between 1-on-1 therapy, therapy with your spouse or partner, family therapy, or group therapy with other individuals living with cancer or who have completed cancer treatment.

Friends and family

Opening up to friends and family about your cancer battle or emotional concerns can be liberating. It can also help you establish new roles and expectations as different aspects of your life change.

Support groups

Support groups can be in-person where you meet with individuals also battling or recovering from cancer, however, they can also take place online. For individuals who would rather not meet in person, or who want more frequent support than however often their group meets, online support groups are an excellent option. Facebook groups and communities like ours can be considered online support groups and can provide around the clock support to those in need.

Channeling your emotions

Practicing strong emotional health can also be an individual activity at times. Finding healthy ways to channel your fear, frustration, pain, or anxiety can help reduce stress and keep your mental health strong. Examples of activities that can help an individual channel their emotions include exercising, journaling, hobbies, or religious or spiritual practices.2-4

Fostering strong mental health and reaching out for emotional support is a critical part of a cancer battle or life after treatment. Although it may seem difficult to seek outside support at times, the benefits are immense.

Written by: Casey Hribar | Last reviewed: October 2017
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