Psychological stress refers to the emotional and physiological reactions experienced when an individual confronts a situation in which the demands go beyond their coping resources. A diagnosis of Mesothelioma is certainly overwhelming, both mentally and physically. Dealing with the physical symptoms, which usually include loss of breath, the medical treatment and side effects there-of, the legal questions that arise from the diagnosis of this asbestos related disease as well as the personal and emotional trauma is all too often an insurmountable amount of stress. This often leads to severe depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation. Recent studies show that often treating oncologists are not equipped to diagnose the psychological ramifications of the disease.
The body responds to stress by releasing stress hormones, such as epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and cortisol (also called hydrocortisone). These hormones accelerate blood pressure and heart rate and raise blood sugar levels and; therefore, increase or enhance speed and strength to help deal with the stressful situation. Although small amounts of stress are believed to be beneficial, high levels of stress over extended periods of time are harmful.
Stress, depression, anxiety All have a NEGATIVE impact on treatment and the quality of life; which is so very important when dealing with what is typically a fatal disease. They also typically can lead to any number of the following:
- Persistent sadness almost every day for most of the day
- Loss of appetite or overeating, developing significant weight loss or gain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Loss of interest in once desirable activities
- Insomnia or oversleeping (not related to treatment exhaustion)
- Thoughts of death or suicide, attempting to commit suicide
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Restlessness, lack of energy, constant fatigue
- Denial of obvious tension or anxiety
- Appearing tense
- Mental confusion – Difficulty solving basic problems
- Trembling or shaking
- Headaches or migraines
- Agitation and aggressive behavior
There are positive and negative aspects to the psychological treatment of Mesothelioma. Psychologists act as counselors, therapists, friends and sometimes a necessary shoulder to cry on during this tough time in a patient’s life. Even with all the overwhelming appointments a patient may have on their plate, psychologists are trained to help them make sense of this, sometimes sudden, life altering change. Psychologists and psychotherapy offer an outlet for the patient to express the whirlwind of emotions that are an inevitable part of this serious and often terminal diagnosis. The downside is that therapy does not offer instant gratification. It is an ongoing process that often requires a substantial amount of time. This is why the psychological needs of a mesothelioma patient are commonly addressed with both a therapeutic and pharmacological approach. In addition to counseling and support groups, there are a variety of anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs that can prove invaluable.
Simply stated by Harvey Max Chochinov MD PhD; “I think it’s fair to say that every patient who is faced with a cancer diagnosis will have a profound emotional response or reaction to the news. It is particularly distressing in the early diagnostic phases when people are dealing with all kinds of uncertainties”.
Support Groups for Mesothelioma
Nearly half of all patients with an advanced form of cancer like mesothelioma experience emotional distress like fear, anger, depression and anxiety. But patients with a strong social support network have a lower risk for developing these symptoms. An important component to developing and maintaining such a network is through participation in support groups. Mesothelioma support groups are often arranged by local hospitals, therapists or cancer advocacy groups such as the American Cancer Society and the American Psychological Oncological Society . Groups can be casual or structured, and they can meet in public places or over the telephone or internet. Some groups offer spiritual support, while others focus more on education and awareness.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any asbestos related condition, we can help you. Preserve your legal rights before time runs out. Our experienced Florida asbestos attorneys at Reyes, O’Shea & Coloca, P.A are dedicated to the fight for the rights of these individuals stricken with mesothelioma and other asbestos related conditions, who were unknowingly exposed and put at risk. Each case is handled individually and given the attention and priority it deserves by our carefully trained legal team.
Garssen B. Psychological factors and cancer development: Evidence after 30 years of research. Clinical Psychology Review 2004; 24(3):315-338.
Mesothelioma Treatment: Help for the Psychological Symptoms
By Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D Candidate (Health Psychology)