Overcoming depression

Staying active is a good way to reduce stress and your risk of depression. Talk to your doctor about the kinds of physical exercises that are right for you. As long as you don’t overdo it, exercise will help you feel healthy and have more energy during and after treatment. You can also reduce the pain and nausea that some cancer treatments cause by learning skills to help you relax. Many methods of relaxation can be learned from DVDs, videos, CDs, or books, but training by a mental health professional probably works best.

If depression lasts more than a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor. What doctors call clinical depression has a number of symptoms. These include:

  • Lack of interest in sex or other things that usually give you pleasure
  • Being unable to feel pleasure at all
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Changes in eating habits (don’t count those that are due to chemo or cancer treatment)
  • Fatigue or tiredness (don’t count tiredness from your cancer treatment)
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling worthless and hopeless

Depression can be treated with medicine and sometimes other methods that may improve your sleep, appetite, energy, and ability to feel pleasure. In turn, this can help your self-esteem and desire for sex. Talk with your doctor if you think you might be depressed.

Be aware that some of the newer anti-depressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may make it harder to reach orgasm. If this is something that’s a problem for you, talk to your doctor about it. There are other anti-depressants that may not have that effect on you.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: August 29, 2013 Last Revised: August 29, 2013

American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.