Emotional Health After Transplant
The Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant program at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin has served adult patients since 1981 and pediatric patients since 1982.
Dealing with Illness
Battling a life-threatening illness is not only physically demanding. It also takes an emotional toll on both survivors and caregivers. In addition to the stress associated with coping with a serious illness and difficult treatment, there are a number of medical and physiological factors that can directly impact mood, including medications, complications and long hospital stays.
Each person's transplant experience is different, so it is important to get help for any overwhelming emotional issues you may have. Getting help can improve your relationships, make you feel better, and aid in the recovery process.
Emotional Well-Being and Common Feelings
Some of the emotional changes you may feel are discussed below. It is possible that you may feel all of these or none at all. Remember that each person reacts differently during times of stress.
- Fatigue is a common medical condition after transplant. Almost all survivors feel weak, exhausted or slow at some point during the recovery process. Fatigue is different than simply feeling tired. As a rule, it is not caused by too much activity, but from changes in your body related to treatment. It can also be caused by physical or emotional stress.
- Depression is more than just feeling sad or "down" every once in awhile. Many symptoms of depression overlap with the side effects of your transplant. Talk to your doctor or cancer psychologist about any long-lasting mood changes.
- Guilt or shame about asking for help or having fewer problems than other transplant families are normal feelings to have after a transplant.
- Fear or anxiety is a common emotion for transplant survivors. Many patients find themselves asking questions such as what happens next and when will my life return to the way it was? A fear of recurrence and complications are common for many patients. Finding a support group or therapist to help you identify and share your feelings can be a good addition to talking to family and friends.
- Sleep changes, such as insomnia, may result from medicines and long hospital stays. Even though changes in sleep patterns can be common during your recovery, talk to your doctor if it is an on going problem. Changes in sleep patterns can affect your moods and emotions.
When to Seek Help
Depression, anxiety and stress are normal parts of the transplant experience. However, sometimes these emotions can become overwhelming and difficult to manage, and may impact your recovery or quality of life. If this occurs, it is important to know that there are good treatments and support resources available to help you manage emotions and mood changes.
Contact your doctor if these difficulties are long-lasting, affect your ability to do the activities you would normally enjoy, or are hard to manage on your own.
- Feeling overwhelmed by fear, depression or distress
- When treatment situations provoke anxiety that is difficult to manage
- If physical symptoms are causing distress (insomnia, pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting)
- Sudden changes in mood or cognitive functioning during treatment
- Having memories of a major trauma earlier in life