Worry, anxiety and panic attacks
When you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with cancer, it’s normal to worry about what will happen in the months or years ahead. Fear and anxiety are natural reactions in this situation.
Many people find it difficult to cope with strong feelings of anxiety. You may find that you can’t concentrate, are irritable and easily distracted, sleep badly and get tired easily. These feelings may be there all the time, or they may come and go. You may also experience some uncomfortable physical changes if you have anxiety. These can include tense muscles, breathlessness, dizziness, sweating, a dry mouth or chest pain.
If you find it hard to manage your anxiety or any feelings of fear you experience, you may find it helpful to contact Anxiety UK.
If you’re very anxious then you may have a panic attack. This is where the feelings of fear and anxiety are almost overwhelming, and you may feel sweaty and breathless. You may find that your muscles are tense, that you’re shaking or that your heart is pounding. Panic attacks can be very frightening. Some people may worry that they’re having a heart attack. But this isn’t the case and you are quite safe.
Techniques to help you manage panic attacks include breathing exercises and visualisation. You can read more about relaxation and visualisation in our booklet Cancer and complementary therapies.
If you feel that your anxiety is getting worse, speak to your GP or nurse specialist, or to a counsellor or psychologist. They can help you look at the reasons for the fear and find ways of coping with it.