Our Friends Respond: About 80% Have PTSD Symptoms After Diagnosis

By on April 13th, 2016 Categories: Treatment & Side Effects

A study published in March validated what many people diagnosed with breast cancer have felt: Over 80% of women experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms after an early-stage breast cancer diagnosis. One year after diagnosis, almost 60% of those women still experience symptoms.

If you’ve been newly diagnosed with breast cancer, you may feel like your emotions are on a rollercoaster, swooping from scared to stressed to worried to angry all in a few minutes’ time. So what separates “normal” stress from PTSD symptoms? PTSD symptoms last longer than a month and severely affect your daily life. Symptoms include:

  • nightmares or flashbacks about the cancer experience
  • continuously focusing on the cancer experience
  • extreme irritability
  • feeling emotionally numb
  • loss of appetite
  • self-destructive behavior (alcohol or drug abuse, for example)
  • being startled or frightening easily
  • hallucinations
  • memory problems
  • concentration problems

We posted our coverage of this study on Facebook, and our friends responded with their own experiences:

“The PTSD from the diagnosis, treatment, surgeries, lasting side effects, and fear of recurrence, feels crushing at times. Thank heavens for therapy. I really benefit from vocalizing all of these thoughts, with someone who is completely objective.”

“I seem to get anxious before any new appointments and 2 are at the end of this month… just over 18 months so far… After the knock me to my knees moment the first time. I never want to hear those three words… you have cancer! again. Always hopeful for staying cancer free.”

“Recovering from treatment (mastectomy, reconstruction, chemo, radiation) was a very long road in itself. I had lost all strength, was stuck in depression, felt nonstop anxiety and PTSD for sure. (I knew it was PTSD when my therapist mentioned it; because I was acting just like my father who suffered for years with it after serving Vietnam!) I went on an anti-depressant, but also on a slow and steady mission to get my strength and vitality back. Started with yoga and meditation, (spiritual overhaul) then added strength training over the years. It’s truly amazing and miraculous to me how building physical strength led to this incredible mental strength. I’m not afraid or anxious anymore about cancer. I’m a new person. If you are willing to work for it, a better quality of life is waiting. I’m now a yoga teacher and studying for personal training certification. Find a qualified teacher or trainer and go for it!!”

“Been 9 years and I still feel the struggle. Fortunate–definitely. Blessed–beyond belief. But….”

“So important to say this out loud to help those who struggle without the PTSD diagnosis.”

“This is so true! I have never felt so out of control…sometimes I can’t breathe. I need to sit down and put my head between my legs and close my eyes and deep breathe. I’m 8 months cancer free, but lasting PTSD symptoms are scary. Now, don’t misunderstand…I am a Christ following, Bible believer, pray about everything, kinda girl. But I have had some side effects that are not leaving. I continue to believe that given time and distance from cancer, I will become a better, stronger, healthier person.”

“I’m not the same person I was before breast cancer. It was over 7 years for me. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to move forward completely.”

“I’m certainly not the same person as I was before I was diagnosed. I worry a lot. I get anxious going to the doctor. I think back to recovering from my mastectomy and can’t breathe when I think of some of those really bad days. I worry I will get sick again but I also know that it’s ok to have those moments and fears. I allow myself a down day here and there. But breast cancer also showed me how strong I can be and how loved I am by those close to me. I can’t ignore that part.”

***

To make sure you get the help you need, talk to your doctor right away if you’re having PTSD symptoms. Treatment for these symptoms can include medicines, such as antidepressants, and therapy to help you learn ways to cope with situations that may trigger traumatic stress.

Did you experience PTSD symptoms after your diagnosis? Did the symptoms lessen over time? How did you manage your symptoms?

Caroline Durham, Content Manager – Caroline brings an eye for detail to managing and copyediting our 7,000 pages of website content. She works closely with all departments to ensure that the website is up-to-date and easy-to-use. When not sitting in front of the computer, Caroline is probably studying plants or climbing rocks.

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