Weighted Blanket for Chemo Anxiety

What Is Chemo Anxiety?

It's inevitable that a cancer diagnosis and the gruelling treatment that goes with it will negatively affect a patient's mental-wellbeing. Waiting for news from your doctor about your condition can cause stress, anxiety, and worry. 

It can be overwhelming to deal with a cancer diagnosis, treatments, and side-effects, while trying to maintain an otherwise normal life. 

According to Dr. Mitch Golant, a health psychologist and senior vice president of research and training for The Wellness Community, "Chemotherapy and other breast cancer treatments make the disease real."

"Before you start treatment, you may not have any symptoms and feel fine," she adds. "So you may worry about whether you've made the right treatment decision -- whether the benefits of treatment outweigh the side effects. For people who have more severe side effects from chemotherapy, these worries may be greater."

These feelings are sometimes informally referred to as "scanxiety".

How The Body And Mood Are Connected

According to Andrew H. Miller, MD, Director of Psychiatric Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University School of Medicine in Georgia, cancer and the treatments undertaken to cure it may provoke the immune system to release inflammatory cytokines.

Inflammatory cytokines are proteins that mediate cell-to-cell communication and are responsible for signalling to increase or decrease inflammation. 

"Research has shown that inflammatory cytokines can enter the brain and affect many of the brain circuits and chemicals that are involved in depression, anxiety, fatigue, and impairment in memory and concentration," says Dr. Miller.

Recognizing Symptoms Of Chemo Anxiety

Scanxiety may manifest itself in different ways. Patients may find it hard to sleep at night, experience periods of shortness of breath, or they may go through intense mood changes.

These reactions may occur at any time after a patient is given the diagnosis; for some people, the depression sets in immediately after being given the news. Other individuals undergo a change in moods during cancer treatment. It's important to note both the physical and mental toll that chemotheraphy has on a patient.

Here are a few symptoms of chemo anxiety to watch out for:

  • Sadness or depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of energy and motivation
  • Constant feelings of hopelessness or inadequacy
  • Irritability
  • Lack of interest in socializing
  • Stomach pains and other physical manifestations
  • Excessive unease or fear
  • Changes in sexual performance
  • Decreased interest in sexual activities
  • Lethargy
  • Sudden shift in emotions (e.g., crying out of the blue for no reason)
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Memory and concentration difficulties
  • Overeating or loss of appetite

Managing "Scanxiety"

But fortunately, there are a dozen ways to deal with this type of anxiety. Here are a few:

1. Listen to music

There are some who get very antsy while waiting in the car, in a hospital room, even at home or at work. But listening to your favorite band or song will infinitely help calm you down. Music can help give you a short escape from your current reality, or even give you the motivation to keep on going during the toughest times.

2. Ease the tension with humor

Get your mind off your condition by letting the good times roll with your best buds, or by doing a hobby you enjoy, like hiking up a mountain or cooking hearty meals. Have a little fun, laugh a little (or a lot!) As they say, laughter is the best medicine.

3. Work it out

When you exercise, you release mood-boosting endorphins that trigger positive feelings, much like what the drug morphine does for the body. Plus, you get the added bonus of being healthy and strong, and looking your best!

4. Take it easy

Ty to ease your anxiety with meditative activities such as tai chi or yoga. Massages and acupuncture can also help your body release the tension and keep your mind off of your stressful condition.

5. Keep a positive outlook

It may sound hard, but focusing on optimistic thoughts will do a tremendous amount of good for your diagnosis. Keeping a positive mentality throughout the entire treat process will help create a positive otucome, and help ease your stress levels.

6. Psychosocial care

There are 3 types of psychosocial care prescribed for patients with cancer: cognitive behavioral therapy, supportive psychotherapy, and family and couples therapy. Your licensed medical practitioner will assist you in determining whichever one works for you.

7. Medication

"Anti-depression and anti-anxiety medications are commonly used, and most cancer doctors feel comfortable prescribing these types of medications," says Dr. Paul D. Thielking, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Pain Medicine/Palliative Care at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah . "There are also medications that can help with common problems such as insomnia, concentration problems, or fatigue." He also cautions about the importance of asking your doctor the potential side effects of taking new drugs.

8. Complementary/holistic techniques to reduce stress

While there aren't any significant studies done on complimentary therapies, early results reveal the strong potential of these techniques to ease the mental, emotional, and physical symptoms of cancer anxiety. When integrated into drug-based treatments, complementary therapies offer a more holistic approach to healing.

Some of these techniques may include aromatherapy, support groups, tai chi, yoga, massage, meditation, hypnosis, and more.

9. Other alternative treatments

The intense mood changes a person goes through during chemotherapy may be alleviated by first acknoweldging them as just that: an emotional and mental response to an overwhelming and life-changing milestone. 

So the best way to tackle this would be to treat the anxiety, which could be accomplished with some effective therapeutic techniques. One of them would be the use of a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets have been used by occupational therapists to treat patients with mental and behavioral disorders, such as autism, Alzheimer's, anxiety, cerebral palsy, and more.

Sleep disturbance, which is a common symptom of chemo anxiety, can also be treated with weighted blanket use. This type of therapy is referred to as Deep Pressure Therapy, which promotes the production of melatonin, the chemical produced by our body which is responsible for sleep. Weighted blanket use increases the amount of melatonin in your system, giving you a deeper, more peaceful sleep.

Non-drug alternatives to healing make the treatment process for cancer so much more easier and bearable for diagnosed patients. Being in a calm and positive state throughout your cancer-free journey will even help you heal faster, according to multiple studies. The secret is in not giving up, and allowing your body the small luxuries.