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Depression

Clinical depression is not something you can "shake off" or talk yourself out of. It is believed to result from a chemical imbalance in your brain that can be treated with medications. It does not mean you are "crazy" or "mentally ill". You did not bring the depression upon yourself.

 

Fortunately, many symptoms of depression can be identified and treated. For any patient with cancer, an important part of their care is the monitoring and treatment of any serious depression.

 

Drugs used to treat melanoma, particularly interferon, may induce depression or worsen pre-existing depression. It is very important for patients to inform their doctors about any symptoms of depression, past or present, before starting interferon therapy and during the course of treatment.

 

Negative thoughts and feelings caused by depression make some people feel like giving up. It is important to realize that these negative views are part of the depression. When treatment starts to work, positive thinking replaces negative thinking, and your mood lifts.

Severity Levels

Common symptoms of depression include:

 

  • Sad, anxious, or "empty" mood that lasts for several weeks

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities

  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness

  • Irritability or restlessness

  • Excessive crying

  • Chronic aches and pains with no apparent cause

 

More serious symptoms include:

 

  • Thoughts of suicide

  • Persistent difficulty eating or sleeping

  • Continuing lack of interest in activities of daily living

  • Persistent feelings of breathlessness or sweatiness

  • Inability to experience pleasure in anything

 

If you have been experiencing these symptoms for 2 weeks or longer, or these feelings are severe enough to interfere with normal functioning, contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor may prescribe medication and may refer you to a mental health professional. When depression is treated effectively, your psychological outlook and quality of life can improve significantly.

 

Tips to Help Yourself Manage Your Depression 

  • Make sure to continue treatment until symptoms improve. If you are taking anti-depressant medication, do not stop it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

  • Make the effort to engage in conversations or daily activities with other people.

  • Don't take on more responsibilities than you know you can handle.

  • Break larger tasks into smaller ones.

  • Participate in activities that may make you feel better.

  • Mild exercise, such as walking, may help your mood.

  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately.

  • Hold off making important decisions until the depression has lifted.

  • Let your family and friends help you.

  • Realize that negative thinking is a part of depression and will disappear with treatment.

  • Be assured that, with time and treatment, you will begin to feel better.



IMPORTANT!

  • When depression is treated effectively, your psychological outlook and quality of life can improve significantly.

Contact your doctor immediately:

  • If you have been experiencing symptoms of depression for 2 weeks or longer, or these feelings are severe enough to interfere with normal functioning.

FAST FACTS

  • Major depression affects many patients with and without cancer and nearly one quarter of patients with melanoma.