Phobias and Other Forms of Anxiety That May Develop
Phobias are ongoing fears about or avoidance of a situation or object. People with phobias usually experience intense anxiety and avoid situations that may frighten them. Cancer patients may fear needles. They may also fear small spaces and try to avoid having tests in confined spaces, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
A person with obsessive-compulsive disorder has persistent thoughts, ideas, or images (obsessions) that are accompanied by repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder may be unable to follow through with cancer treatment because they are disabled by thoughts and behaviors that interfere with their ability to function normally.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is treated with medication and psychotherapy. It should be noted that obsessive-compulsive disorder is rare in patients with cancer who did not have the disorder before being diagnosed with it.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The diagnosis of cancer may cause a person who has previously experienced a life-threatening event to relive the trauma associated with that event. Patients with cancer who have post-traumatic stress disorder may experience extreme anxiety before surgery, chemotherapy, painful medical procedures, or bandage changes. Post-traumatic stress disorder is treated with psychotherapy.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Patients with generalized anxiety disorder may experience extreme and constant anxiety or unrealistic worry. For example, patients with supportive family and friends may fear that no one will care for them. Patients may worry that they cannot pay for their treatment, although they have adequate financial resources and insurance. Generalized anxiety disorder may happen after a patient has been very depressed.
A person who has generalized anxiety may:
- Feel irritable or restless
- Have tense muscles
- Experience shortness of breath
- Have heart palpitations
- Have unexplained sweating
- Experience dizziness
- Be easily fatigued.