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Recognizing Depression and Getting Treatment

Recognizing Depression and Getting Treatment

Depression is a common condition in people with lung cancer. It is estimated that one in four persons with lung cancer experiences periods of depression or other psychosocial problems during and after treatment. Other studies have shown rates of up to 43-47% of people with lung cancer experiencing depression.1-3 Since depression is a serious condition that can increase the risk that you will harm yourself, it is important to be aware of its symptoms and to get help as quickly as possible.

The symptoms of depression include4:

  • Depressed mood (sadness, hopelessness)
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
  • Weight loss
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Slowed or agitated behavior
  • Fatigue
  • Thoughts of worthlessness or guilt
  • Inability to concentrate or think clearly

If you notice the symptoms of depression in yourself or a friend or family member, alert your doctor and ask for an evaluation.

Major Depression: Symptoms and Diagnosis

  • Typically involves mood states including grief and sadness
  • Key element that sets it apart from mood swings is that mood state persists over extended period of time
  • At least 5 of the 9 symptoms below
  • Must include depressed mood or decreased interest
  • Symptoms must have persisted for most of every day for at least 2 weeks

Symptoms of Depression

  • Depressed mood (feeling blue, down-in-the-dumps, hopeless)
  • A significantly reduced level of interest or pleasure in most or all activities
  • Considerable weight loss or gain (5% or more change of weight in a month when not dieting) or change in appetite
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide (with or without a specific plan) or attempt of suicide
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia), or sleeping more than usual (hypersomnia)
  • Behavior that’s agitated or slowed down, which is readily observable by others
  • Feeling fatigued or very low energy
  • Having thoughts of worthlessness or extreme guilt
  • A diminished ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions

Treatment of Depression

The biggest challenge to treating depression is that people are often reluctant to seek help and follow-through with treatment. Some people believe that they need to be strong and stoic about emotional difficulties. Admitting the need for help is difficult and can seem like surrendering. However, real strength is reaching out for help when you need it. By doing this, you’ll be taking charge of your health and welfare.

Mental health experts agree that the best treatment for major depression is a combination of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy or counseling. While each type of treatment can provide some relief for depression, the combination works together and can be highly effective.5

Psychotherapy or counseling for depression can be done individually or in a group by a qualified psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor. It generally takes several months of treatment to get the best results. So, be prepared to stick with it for a sufficient amount of time.

You may also consider joining a support group for people with lung cancer. Getting support from a community of people dealing with similar problems can be a useful and powerful experience. While support groups are a useful addition to formal psychotherapy or counseling, they are not a substitute. Speak to your doctor to get a referral to a qualified mental health professional for psychotherapy or counseling.

Antidepressant Treatment

Only a qualified healthcare provider can determine which antidepressant medication will be best for you. Additionally, if you are being treated for lung cancer, your doctor will be concerned with the potential for interactions between your cancer treatment and antidepressant treatment.3

A variety of antidepressants are to treat major depression. These include a group of antidepressants called serotonergic antidepressants, such as Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Effexor (venlafaxine), and Prozac (fluoxetine). An older generation of antidepressants are in a group called tricyclics, and include Elavil (amitriptyline), Pamelor (nortriptyline), and Tofranil (imipramine).Other types of antidepressants may also be useful, including Wellbutrin (bupropion )and Desyrel (trazodone).

Different antidepressants cause slightly different kinds of side effects, and no individual person will react the same to every medication. You will need to work with a doctor to find the right antidepressant for you. It may take up to 6 weeks to find out how well a particular medication will work for you. So, work closely with your doctor and be prepared to give the process time.

  1. Brown CG, Brodsky J, Cataldo JK. Lung cancer stigma, anxiety, depression and quality of life. J Psychosoc Oncol. 2014:32(1):59-73. doi: 10.1080/07347332.2013.855963.
  2. National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed online on 8/16/17 at
  3. Montazeri A, Milroy R, Hole D, McEwen J, Gillis CR. Anxiety and depression in patients with lung cancer before and after diagnosis: findings from a population in Glasgow, Scotland. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1998:52:203-204.
  4. Williams J, Nieuwsma J. Screening for depression. Fletcher RH, Roy-Byrne PP, Sokol HN, eds. UptoDate. Wolters Kluwer Health. Accessed at: 2013.
  5. Katon W, Ciechanowski P. Unipolar major depression in adults: Choosing initial treatment. Uptodate. Roy-Byrne PP, Solomon D, eds. Accessed at: 2014.


  • notme
    2 years ago

    Living outside of depression is living outside your circumstance. Break it down. Break it down again. Break it down again. Break it down again. You gotta keep breaking it down, and You gotta live outside of that. You have to CHOOSE.. CHOOSE to LIVE.. CHOOSE to LIVE OUTSIDE the CIRCUMSTANCE. TRUTH is., all the things we worry about, think about, 95% of those things don’t really matter. We think they matter while We have hope for them, but when you stop hoping, and realize, we come into this world alone, and we go out of this world alone. The only thing that matters is if we emboss a mark up on the heart for another for the betterment of another, this is all that matter’s. How many opportunities we have to do this, this is all that really matters.. The key is to purpose ourselves to others, live OUTSIDE our own circumstance and guide others out of their own weary places. Rejoice in every little thing, and see it for its good, know its value, find gratefulness for its blessing and share it with another. Take our eyes off self and set our eyes on Him whom is everlasting. Be at peace with that. See no darkness, for he brings light into your world. He whom is everlasting will bring light into your world. He will bring peace, He will bring perfect peace, and when you grow restless and anxiety starts up, purpose yourself to another. Emboss goodness into the heart of another, anxiety will leave you. As you give, so shall you receive, the benefits of giving are more when we take our eyes off ourselves and live outside our circumstance. You can find opportunity in any situation. It is there for there to be made. ,,, and sometimes when we are in our darkest of places we need to emboss that goodness and truth and emboss it upon our own hearts. We need to envision taking this powerful light of the Everlasting, shine it all around, and bathe ourselves in it so we too can heal before we set out again on another mission.

  • Margot moderator
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for this comment and sharing your perspective here @notme, we appreciate it and are so happy to have you as a vocal part of our community. Thinking of you. Warmly, Margot, Team Member

  • notme
    2 years ago

    Thank you Margot, we sure would benefit from an edit button in the app if at all possible. I know I have needed it several times after having released what I have written.

  • notme
    2 years ago

    I lived with depression many years of my lifetime. Depression is faaaaar worse than lung cancer ever was for me.

  • Margot moderator
    2 years ago

    We hear you @notme; please know that you are not alone and that we and the community are always here for you. Warmly, Margot, Team Member

  • notme
    2 years ago

    Thank you

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