October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, hosted by collaborating organizations to share information and resources concerning breast cancer. Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis is one of the most emotionally devastating events many women experience. Women face a lengthy treatment process and uncertainty about their future. The psychological stress that accompanies this diagnosis can lead to anxiety, depression, PTSD and other mental health issues.
Women who feel emotionally overwhelmed may withdraw, neglect themselves and turn to substance abuse or addictive behaviors to soothe emotional turmoil. A 2009 study reported that breast cancer mortality rates are 26 times higher in women with depression and 39 times higher in women suffering from major depression. In addition, stress hormones increase blood pressure, weaken the immune system and cause other physical changes that harm women’s health.
Learning to control anxiety and depression helps women become more engaged in treatment and boosts chances of recovery. A study on psychology groups found that women taught to deal with stress and improve mood had a 45 percent lower risk of breast cancer recurrence and up to 68 percent less mortality risk.
Learning the emotional skills to deal with breast cancer’s effects improves both mental and physical outcomes. Brookhaven Retreat treats physical and psychological stress as an opportunity for personal growth. Women with depression and anxiety develop skills such as emotion regulation and healthy eating, build self-esteem and cultivate the habits necessary to create a healthy life.
With the mental health skills to cope with life-changing diagnoses in hand, women are able to enjoy lives of improved emotional strength, and have the tools required to create lives of joy and wellness.