Getting professional help
If you find that your feelings and emotions are overwhelming, or if you’re becoming depressed, then it may be time to get professional help.
GP appointments are usually short, so try to plan what you want to say before you see the doctor. It can help to write things down before the appointment. When you are with your doctor, try to tell them how you really feel – focus on what concerns you most of all. This will help your doctor give you the most helpful advice or treatment.
Consider taking a relative or friend along to help remind you of everything you want to discuss. They can also remind you of anything the doctor says later on. Some GPs are happy for the discussion to be recorded if you would like to listen to it later. Remember to check that this is okay with your GP before the consultation starts.
Help from your healthcare team
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Many people find that they get a lot of support from the hospital staff looking after them during their treatment. People who are having treatment for cancer will often be assigned a clinical nurse specialist. These specialist nurses are often the point of contact at the hospital. They can provide further information and support to people with cancer, and their families.
I was struggling to cope and the support worker helped me through. She was very understanding, and I felt that I had a friend and a counsellor and an expert in a situation that I found extremely hard to cope with.
There are many other members of the wider healthcare team who may be able to help you cope with your feelings and emotions. Each has a different role to play, but usually you’ll only need the help of one or two:
Clinical psychologists are trained to understand what people think and feel, and how they behave; particularly in stressful situations such as coping with cancer. They can also help people with their relationships. If you’re depressed or anxious, a clinical psychologist can help you manage your thoughts and change the way you think. Or they can change your behaviour, to help you feel better.
Psychiatrists are doctors who specialise in helping people with severe anxiety or depression, and other mental illnesses. If your doctor suggests referring you to a psychiatrist, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything seriously wrong with you.
Seeing a psychiatrist can be helpful in the following situations:
if there are problems with your antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicines
if you have severe anxiety or depression
if, after a full course of treatment, you’re unable to stop taking antidepressants without depression coming back.
Community psychiatric nurses specialise in helping people live with all types of mental illness.
Talking therapies have been shown to help people who have anxiety or depression. There are many different types available, including psychological therapy and counselling.
Many people get support by talking to close family members or friends. However, your feelings may be quite confused and you might find them difficult to talk about with people close to you. It can help to talk to someone outside your family and circle of friends, who has been trained to listen and can help you explore your feelings. Having the time to talk things through often enables us to see a way forward.
Talking one-to-one with a trained counsellor can help you sort out your feelings and find ways of coping with them. Some GPs have counsellors within their practice, or they can refer you to one. You may need to pay for counselling, particularly if you would like to see a counsellor long-term.
You may be given the opportunity to take part in group therapy. A trained therapist (counsellor or other professional) encourages a group of individuals to share their feelings and experiences with each other.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
The way we think can have a powerful effect on how we feel. This includes how we think about ourselves, our world or the future. People who are anxious or depressed often have negative patterns of thinking and behaviour, which keep them feeling low. Cognitive behavioural therapy is designed to break this cycle.
When people are depressed, they often stop doing the things they used to enjoy. This loss of pleasurable activities then adds to the depression. Part of the treatment is designed to help you find out what things give you a sense of satisfaction and pleasure.
Even when nothing else changes, the way you think about things can affect how you feel. The therapist will help you recognise the negative thoughts that are making you feel low. This will help you find effective ways to challenge them.
Although a few specific types of talking therapies are mentioned above, there are others to choose from.