Weighted Blanket for Cancer Patients

A cancer diagnosis is an extremely life-changing event in someone's life, as well as the lives of their families and  caregivers. Anxiety, as well as feelings of depression and fear, are perfectly normal reactions to something as impactful as this. 

Patients may experience anxiousness during every step of their cancer journey: while doing screening tests, waiting for biopsy results, receiving diagnosis, going through treatment, and even while they're waiting to see if the cancer comes back.

These feelings may be caused by many different factors: changes in body image, the sudden shifting of family and career roles, feelings of uselessness or fear of being a burden to the family. Not to mention the looming possibility of death, pain, and suffering.

Oftentimes, the anxiety may reach absurd levels and can even intensify someone's pain, intervene with their sleeping patterns, and cause physical symptoms like nausea and vomiting—basically come between them and a chance to live a better-quality life.

Though it may be a perfectly natural reaction, anxiety that takes over your entire life is no longer normal, nor is it healthy. If it already causes emotional distress and becomes incapacitating, it may be time to treat the anxiety as a disease on its own.

Why Treat It? 

If you feel like a mental issue like anxiety pales in comparison to the actual, life-threatening cancer diagnosis at hand, then it might be worthy to mention that increased levels of anxiety may even be associated with lower survival rates among patients with cancer. 

Symptoms Of Clinical Depression

Patients diagnosed with cancer may experience one or more of the following:

  • Extended periods of hopelessness or severely somber moods throughout the day
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities 
  • Extreme weight loss or gain
  • Being unnaturally lethargic on a daily basis, to the point that people take notice
  • Loss of energy
  • Sleep problems (e.g. sleeping in too much, waking up too early or too late, or totally not being able to fall asleep)
  • Difficulty focusing, recalling, and decision-making
  • Heavy feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Contemplation of suicide

Some symptoms may be a direct side effect of the medication or treatment being undertaken for the cancer, but if several symptoms keep recurring on a long-term basis (to the point that they interfere with everyday activities) then it might be time to visit a mental health professional for help.

Treatment Of Cancer Anxiety

In order to treat anxiety induced by a cancer diagnosis, the attending mental health professional must first distinguish whether the fears are on the normal end of the spectrum, or abnormally severe. Treatment will depend on how powerfully it affects the daily life of the patient.

Anxiety caused by another medical condition, or by pain relating to the cancer, or as a result of taking drugs (e.g. steroids) is typically controlled by treating, firstly, the underlying cause. 

Treatment also involves providing enough information and support. Most patients report to feeling less anxious about their diagnosis once they learn more about their specific type of cancer as well as the treatments they expect to receive. This allows the patient's coping mechanism to take over. Looking at the cancer as a problem to be solved rather than an uncontrollable monster to wrestle with is also a good therapeutic technique.

Other treatment alternatives should also be made available to patients, such as: hypnosis, family therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy, self-help groups, and relaxation techniques, or biofeedback.

Medications may also be taken in conjunction with these therapies, as they could really aid in relieving the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

What Causes Anxiety In The First Place?

When your brain feels like it's in danger, such as when it detects that you're faced with something frightening or stressful, a hormone called adrenalin is released. This chemical, also called the "fight or flight" hormone, prepares your body to fight back, or run away from, the impending danger. This hormone is responsible for the stories of people being able to lift entire vehicles in order to save themselves or a loved one, and for other incredible feats of super human strength.

Adrenaline forces your bodily functions to speed up: your heart beats so much faster, your muscles contract, and even your gastrointestinal movement is put on pause.

This may all sound amazing, but this same natural response that's supposed to save you in times of danger can also become the root of your problem. 

For cancer patients, the intense worry and stress that they feel about their condition fuels their fight or flight response and snowballs into a more serious case of anxiety. 

Weighted Blankets And Cancer

If you or someone you know has a bad case of anxiety due to a cancer diagnosis, we have one way to alleviate that feeling of despair and help give a sense of security. 

Use of a weighted blanket has been proven to provide relief in a noninvasive, drug-free manner.

It uses the principle of Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT), which is firm tactile sensory input that gives proprioceptive input distributed throughout the body. Some examples of this are bear hugs, cuddling, squeezing hands, compression, or infant swaddling.

Stress raises the levels of the "fight or flight" hormone in our body, thereby increasing the cortisol levels and raising blood pressure levels. This state makes it difficult to relax and fall asleep, or even to filter sensory input by importance.

A weighted blanket has a calming and organizing effect on the nervous system. They give an almost instantaneous feeling of relief and calmnes regardless of how stressed or worried an individual might be.

A 2008 study published in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health reported the following results after having participants use a 30-lb weighted blanket: lower anxiety (63%), lower physiological data (blood pressure, pulse rate, pulse oximetry), and positive calming effects (78%). 

Weighted blankets have also been used for treating mental health cases such as post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Patients participating in these studies reported feelings of calmness and a sense of security after using the weighted blanket.

These scientific findings make it pretty obvious how a weighted blanket is the best therapeutic tool someone suffering from cancer anxiety might need to make life so much easier, despite their condition.