Sadness and Depression

Feeling sad can be the result of a number of different factors. Some people feel sad that their family is in so much distress while others experience sadness because they are unable to work or do other things that they want to do. It is important to share how you feel with the people who you have identified as part of your support team. Expressing your emotions is one of the best ways to maintain your emotional health. Feelings of sadness are normal; however, if you feel like your sadness is the predominant feeling that you feel on most days for an extended period of time, you may be experiencing depression.

Depression is different from sadness as it lasts longer, can be overwhelming, and has more symptoms. You may have many symptoms or just one or two. Depression can have a significant effect on your quality of life.

Lymphoma and its treatment may increase your risk of depression. There are a number of factors that determine whether you experience depression before, during, or after your treatment. These include the type of lymphoma, stage of disease, severity of symptoms you experienced, types of treatment you had, the quality of your support systems, your history of mental health issues, as well as comorbid and circumstantial issues that you find yourself dealing with.

Depression is a serious condition but it is treatable. It can be caused by, or made worse by, chemical changes in the brain. Most people with depression feel a sense of relief when they learn the facts about this illness. Once you realize depression is not a personal weakness and that you are not alone, it makes things easier to handle. Each case of depression is unique, so people may require different methods of treatment. There is a range of treatment options for depression including counselling, antidepressant medications, or a combination of the two. Support from family, friends, and support groups can help you cope as well.

When to Call a Doctor

Talk to your doctor, nurse, or social worker if you have any concerns that cannot be explained by other reasons and that seem too much to manage on your own or if you:

  • Feel overwhelmed
  • Feel sad, hopeless, discouraged, guilty, worthless or “empty” almost every day for most of the day
  • Lose interest in activities that you once enjoyed
  • Notice a change in your eating habits
  • Gain or lose weight
  • Experience changes in your sleep patterns (eg, are unable to sleep, wake up too early, or sleep too much)
  • Notice decreased energy or fatigue (severe tiredness) almost every day
  • Have trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Have thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), suicide, or attempted suicide
  • Experience wide mood swings from depression to periods of agitation and high energy

Having been treated for lymphoma can cause some of these symptoms but, if you have the first two symptoms on the list above, along with three or more of the other symptoms, you may be depressed. If these symptoms last for two weeks or longer, or are severe enough to interfere with your normal function, you need to consult with a professional who has experience dealing with these issues. Ask your nurse, doctor, social worker, or minister for help or for a referral.

References:

American Cancer Society. Talking With Friends and Relatives About Your Cancer. Revised May 30, 2013
Accessed May 27, 2014

LIVESTRONG Foundation. Emotions After Cancer Treatment
Accessed May 27, 2014

Lymphoma Canada. Coping and Emotions
Accessed May 27, 2014