Help from your healthcare team

How we feel can affect us both physically and emotionally. If your feelings are very strong, it can sometimes be difficult to think and act normally. Usually, this only lasts a short time. But if your feelings stop you from living normally for a long period of time, you may need extra help.

Your GP and healthcare team can help you cope with your emotions. Try speaking with your GP or clinical nurse specialist first. You may also find it helpful to speak to members of the wider healthcare team, such as a:

  • Counsellor
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Community psychiatric nurse.

Speaking to a specialist about your feelings does not mean something is seriously wrong. They are professionals, trained to help you manage your feelings.

Talking things through can really make a difference to how we feel. Talking therapies are individual or group sessions that help you to better understand your feelings through talking. You can also try to manage your feelings using complementary therapies. These are used alongside your normal cancer treatment, so speak to your doctor before using them.

Getting professional help

If you find your feelings and emotions are overwhelming, or if you are becoming depressed, then it may be time to get professional help.


Help from your GP

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 GP, try to tell them how you really feel. Focus on what concerns you most. This will help them 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 you to record the discussion if you would like to listen to it later. Remember to check this is okay with your GP before the discussion starts.


Help from your healthcare team

Many people find they get a lot of support from the hospital staff looking after them during their treatment.

If you’re having cancer treatment, you may be assigned a clinical nurse specialist or key worker. These specialist nurses are often the point of contact at the hospital. They can give information and support to you and your family.

They will often help with concerns you may feel you can’t talk to your consultant about, like worries about travelling, finances or work. They’re also likely to have details of local support groups and other organisations that may be able to help.

There are many other members of the wider healthcare team who may be able to help you cope with your feelings and emotions. Each one has a different role, but usually you’ll only need the help of one or two of them.

  • Counsellors are trained to listen and help people talk through their problems. They will not give advice or provide answers, but they will help you find your own solutions. This can be very helpful, particularly if you don’t feel able to discuss your feelings and emotions with people close to you.
  • 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 help you change your behaviour, to help you feel better.
  • Psychiatrists are doctors who specialise in diagnosing and treating mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Some psychiatrists are specially trained in looking after the mental health of people with physical illness (liaison psychiatrists) and some specialise in the mental health of people with cancer (psycho-oncologists).
  • Community psychiatric nurses specialise in helping people live with all types of mental health problem.

If your doctor suggests referring you to a psychiatrist, this does not necessarily mean there is anything seriously wrong with you. It also does not mean you will have to go into hospital.

Seeing a psychiatrist can be helpful if:

  • there are problems with your antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicines
  • you have severe anxiety or depression
  • you have problems with thoughts, concentration or memory
  • you have thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life.

Kim, Macmillan cancer information nurse specialist

Kim, Macmillan cancer information nurse specialist

As a specially qualified nurse, Kim has the expertise to answer medical questions you have about cancer.

About our cancer information videos

Kim, Macmillan cancer information nurse specialist

As a specially qualified nurse, Kim has the expertise to answer medical questions you have about cancer.

About our cancer information videos


Talking therapies

Talking therapies can help people who have anxiety or depression. There are many different types available, including psychological therapy and counselling. Although we’ve listed a few specific types of talking therapy here, there are others to choose from.

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 helps you 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 in 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.

Group therapy

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 the way 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. CBT 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 CBT is designed to help you find out which 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.

You can ask your doctor or nurse to tell you about any local counselling and support services that are available to you. You can search for counsellors on the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy’s website. Other organisations also provide counselling and emotional support.


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