National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is underway this October. This campaign is embraced by many organizations across the nation, which aim to share information and resources concerning breast cancer. The psychological stress that occurs with a breast cancer diagnosis can cause depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental and emotional health issues. Throughout October, Brookhaven Retreat acknowledges how critical it is for women to take ownership of their mental health during and after a health crisis.
According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis. Women often face an extensive treatment process and feel uncertain about the future. Concerns over their health may lead to anxiety, stress and depression. Research led by Columbia University found that 23 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer experience symptoms of PTSD.
A breast cancer diagnosis is one of the most emotionally devastating things a woman can go through. Women who feel overwhelmed often isolate themselves and neglect self-care needs. They may turn to substance abuse or addictive behaviors as a form of self-medication to ease emotional pain. The American Psychological Association (APA) reported breast cancer mortality rates are 26 times higher in women with depression and nearly 40 times higher in women suffering from major depression. In addition, stress hormones weaken the immune system and increase blood pressure.
Learning the skills to control anxiety and depression helps women become more involved in treatment and improves their chances of recovery. The APA report found that women who were taught how to manage stress and boost their mood had a 68 percent less mortality risk and a 45 percent lower risk of breast cancer recurrence.
The mental health risks associated with breast cancer and other life-threatening diagnosis can negatively impact a woman’s physical health. Women must learn to cope with health crisis, adjust to treatment and understand their health needs. Learning the emotional skills to deal with breast cancer’s effects improves both mental and physical outcomes.
Brookhaven Retreat believes that emotional and mental health can impact physical health. The mind and body rely on each other to form holistic wellness. Women with depression and anxiety develop skills such as emotion regulation and nutritional balance to build self-esteem and cultivate the habits necessary to create a healthy life. With a strong emotional and mental foundation, breast cancer survivors can enjoy life with hope, encouragement and emotional wellness.