Depression and prostate cancer – The warning signs

Both you and your loved one are likely to have strong feelings of sadness when you first receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer — or if his cancer recurs.

It’s also very common to feel sad about long-term side effects, including:

But if sadness continues and gets worse — and is accompanied by strong feelings of despair and hopelessness — you or your loved one may be suffering from depression.

Symptom checklist

Signs and symptoms that can come on suddenly or slowly can include:

  • Sadness that doesn’t go away
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring you pleasure
  • Not wanting to be around friends and family
  • Lack of caring about how you look or whether you wash or bathe
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Feeling tired all the time, despite how much sleep you get
  • Sleep changes, such as not being able to fall asleep, stay asleep, or waking up very early
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Anger, irritability, or intense mood swings that can make you or your loved one feel “out of control”
  • Persistent negative thinking that can quickly spiral into paralyzing fear and anxiety
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, helpless, or hopeless
  • Thinking about death or “ending it all” by suicide

Physical changes

Depression can also cause physical changes that can wreak havoc on your body, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Chronic body pains
  • Stomach problems

Stress can be a factor

Studies report that wives and partners may experience greater levels of stress and anxiety than their men with prostate cancer.

Get help if you need it

You may want to seek professional help from a medical doctor or psychiatrist if you or your man:

  • Experience the signs and symptoms of depression
  • Have overwhelming feelings of despair or hopelessness that make it hard to function at your best

A medical professional can help you determine if you or your loved one’s feelings are “normal” for your situation, or if you may benefit from treatment for depression.


Hagedoorn M, Buunk BP, Kuijer RG, Wobbes T, Sanderman R. Couples dealing with cancer: role and gender differences regarding psychological distress and quality of life. Psycho-Oncology. 2000;9(3):232-242.

Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, 3rd edition. Litin SC, ed. HarperResource. New York, NY: 2003; 1220-1226.

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