CompleteLife Psychiatric Counseling
Mental health refers to a person’s overall psychological and emotional condition. Good mental health as described by the National Cancer Institute is "a state of well-being in which a person is able to cope with everyday events, think clearly, be responsible, meet challenges, and have good relationships with others."
However, it is normal for patients with cancer to experience emotional responses which may or may not have signs and symptoms of a specific mental disorder. Cancer diagnosis, treatment, recurrence or side effects can all trigger psychological and social distress of varying levels, ranging from adjustment disorders to major mental disorders such as major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder.
Common emotional responses and mental health disorders in cancer are defined below:
Depression is marked by ongoing feelings of sadness, despair, loss of energy, and difficulty dealing with normal daily life. Other symptoms of depression include feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, loss of pleasure in activities, changes in eating or sleeping habits, and thoughts of death or suicide. Depression can affect anyone and can be successfully treated. Depression affects 15 percent to 25 percent of cancer patients.
Anxiety describes feelings of fear, dread, and uneasiness that may occur as a reaction to stress. A person with anxiety may sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heart beat. Extreme anxiety that occurs over time may be a sign of a anxiety disorder.
Adjustment disorders include behaviors or moods more extreme than expected in reaction to the cancer experience. The behaviors or moods can result in significant problems in functioning with family, friends and at work.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that develops in reaction to physical injury or severe mental or emotional distress, including having cancer. Symptoms interfere with day-to-day living and include reliving the event in nightmares or flashbacks; avoiding people, places and things connected to the event; feeling alone and losing interest in daily activities; and having trouble concentrating or sleeping.
Some warning signs of mental illness as defined by the American Psychiatric Association include:
- marked personality change
- inability to cope with problems and daily activities
- strange ideas or delusions
- excessive anxiety
- prolonged feelings of sadness
- marked changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- thinking or talking about suicide
- extreme highs and lows
- abuse of alcohol or drugs
- excessive anger, hostility
- violent behavior
- irrational fears
Current state-of-the-art, comprehensive treatment for mental illness is very effective and may include psychotherapy -- to discuss troubling problems and feelings -- and medication.
For more information, see the American Cancer Society's "Anxiety, Fear and Depression."
Natalie Dattilo, PhD, HSPP, is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in psychosocial interventions for medically ill populations. Dr. Dattilo is an assistant professor of clinical psychology with the IU School of Medicine and director of the Mind/Body Health Clinic at Indiana University Hospital. Dr. Dattilo offers individually tailored, evidence-based, non-medication treatments, including cognitive-behavioral therapies, mindfulness-based therapies, and biofeedback. She sees patients at the cancer center on Monday and Thursday afternoons.
Meet Dr. Chernyak
Yelena Chernyak, PhD, HSPP, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with individuals experiencing both medical and psychological concerns using a bio-psychosocial approach. Dr. Chernyak is assistant professor of clinical psychology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. At the IU Simon Cancer Center, she provides individual and family psychotherapy treatments, with a specialty in cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction. She is available for appointments on Tuesdays.
Meet Dr. Goddard
Call (317) 944-8735 or (317) 948-2538.