The emotional impact of prostate problems

 

Feelings, emotions and anger

 

It’s completely normal that you will feel a sense of loss and probably anger when diagnosed with prostate cancer or another prostate-related condition – for the loss of your previous lifestyle and some of the things you used to enjoy doing that you may not be able to do for a while. Everyone experiences this differently but it’s normal and OK to feel like this and to feel sorry for yourself.

But there are things you can do to improve your mood and we’ll look at them in a moment. First though some further thoughts on the process you’re probably going through and what it means.

 

stressDenial

 

When you first learn that you have a prostate problem you may go through a period where you deny the reality of the situation. You might try to ignore what’s going on, what’s going to happen next and what permanent changes there might be to your lifestyle. Denial is one of the defensive coping mechanisms we use when faced with something we find difficult to come to terms with. It may help if you set aside some time to concentrate on thinking about how you feel even though that might seem self-indulgent. It’s OK to feel sorry for yourself. Some men also find it helpful to write down how they feel.

But with conditions such as prostate cancer it’s really important to emphasise that the earlier the problem is dealt with the more likely it is that the outcome will be successful. And the post-operative problems of incontinence and erectile dysfunction could be less. During the period when my prostate cancer was diagnosed and I experienced the emotional impact of what might happen. one woman put it very succinctly to me: “I would rather have a live companion than a dead lover”. This is a very poignant and powerful statement because many men feel that their life ends with erectile dysfunction and/or incontinence. But actually women (and men as well it turns out) often don’t see it that way.

 

Anger and frustration

 

You are very likely to feel frustrated and angry when thinking about the loss of your physical health. Why me? Some men say that receiving a diagnosis of a prostate problem made them feel old. Feeling this anger is normal. You may find that you direct your anger at yourself or even a loved one or someone or something which doesn’t even seem connected with your condition. Someone who was diagnosed with lung cancer reported feeling angry at the cigarette manufacturer who had created the cigarettes that they smoked for years.

 

Bargaining

 

Something else that you might find yourself doing is bargaining. This is a common part of the process of coming to terms with what’s happening to you . “If only I’d gone to the doctor earlier”……. “If only I’d stopped smoking before”……”If only I’d done more exercise”….. Bargaining is another way we protect ourselves from the reality we don’t want to face.

 

Depression and anxiety

 

Feeling depressed and anxious is common amongst men diagnosed with prostate problems. The future can seem bleak and you might be frightened about what it holds for you.

The sorts of thoughts men with prostate problems report having include:

  • I can’t do all the things I’d like to do
  • I worry about being a burden on my family and friends
  • I feel I brought this on myself because I didn’t go to the doctor for so long
  • I can’t expect people to feel sorry for me
  • I feel I’m losing my independence
  • I feel hopeless about the future
  • I’m frightened about the future

Again it’s quite normal to feel frightened when you look into the future at the unknown but many men are successfully treated and live enjoyable and fulfilling lives.

 

What to do about it

 

Some people find it helpful to use techniques like mindful meditation, yoga or tai chi to help them maintain a positive outlook and manage the inevitable stress and fear that they may occasionally experience.

These techniques can be very helpful in improving your mood and helping you to cope mentally and emotionally with your condition and see the future more positively.

We’ve also got some tips on managing stress here.

Exercise improves how you feel mentally as well as physically. There are lots of suggestions about exercising on this website and you could start here.

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