Because a significant number of cancer patients—an estimated 25 percent—experience major depression at some point during their illness, recognizing the signs of depression among patients is a critical part of optimal treatment. From feelings of hopelessness to an inability to carry out daily tasks, depression can affect quality of life and possibly survival. For these reasons, prompt recognition and treatment of depressed patients is vital. Learn to recognize the following signs of depression. If you or a loved one experiences any of these signs, seek immediate help from a medical professional.
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Decreased energy
- Fatigue and a sense of being “slowed down”
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
- Restlessness and irritability
The Challenge ofIdentifying Depression
Even though depression is a common complaint among cancer patients, it isn’t always diagnosed. Signs of depression may be confused with symptoms of the cancer itself, as symptoms (like those described above) often overlap. Furthermore, patients may also be experiencing a wide range of health issues, which can take medical priority over emotional and psychological concerns. These challenges in recognizing depression may be compounded by the fact that many patients don’t report depressive symptoms, perhaps due to an associated stigma or because they feel that cancer should take priority. Together, these challenges make a firm understanding of the symptoms of depression a critical step in recognizing this potentially debilitating yet treatable side effect. Once again, if you or a loved one experiences any of the above symptoms, seek help immediately.
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