Depression can strike anybody at any time. And for people who have experienced cancer, depression is even more likely to develop.
In adults who have been diagnosed with cancer, about 26 percent have also been diagnosed with depression, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
In comparison, about 16 percent of adults who have not been diagnosed with cancer experience depression.
The Gallup poll determined that adults ages 18 to 29 who have experienced cancer are more likely to develop depression as a result of the side effects of cancer. Nearly 50 percent of people in that age group experienced depression, compared to 14 percent of those without cancer.
Senior citizens ages 65 and older, on the other hand, have lower rates of developing depression, at about 19 percent.
Why Depression Develops
People develop depression for varying reasons. According to the Gallup poll, people who have experienced cancer often develop depression for the following reasons:
- Fear of death
- Financial and end-of-life concerns
- Changes in body image and self-esteem
- Changes in lifestyle
The increased rate of depression in young adults with cancer may be in part due to the fact that they had no expectations of being diagnosed with cancer at such a young age.
Sadness vs. Depression
No matter what age they are, people who are diagnosed with cancer will experience sadness and grief of some sort. That sadness, however, will not always lead to a person developing depression. For that reason, it is important to be able to distinguish between normal sadness and depression, which is a mood disorder that requires treatment.
According to the National Cancer Institute, it is typical for anybody who is diagnosed with cancer to experience the following:
Feelings of disbelief, denial or despair
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Preoccupation with worries about the future
While it is typical for people diagnosed with cancer to have those reactions to a diagnosis, over time they should lessen as a person adjusts to the reality of having cancer. It is when a person cannot adjust to the diagnosis after a period of time and loses interest in usual activities that they may be depressed.
Anyone who is experiencing depression, whether or not they have experienced cancer, should seek treatment for the mood disorder. For people with cancer, treatment may help them have a better outlook on living with the disease and have more energy to fight it.
Depression treatment can involve talk therapy, group therapy, exercise and the use of anti-depressants. For people who have overcome cancer and are still dealing with symptoms of depression, a residential treatment center for depression can be a place of healing from the mood disorder and other issues related to having cancer.