How Art Can Help Cancer Patients Reduce Stress and Anxiety

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Stress and anxiety are a major problem for terminal cancer patients. This is especially true for aggressive cancers, like mesothelioma, because there’s no cure and a lot of patients are tempted to simply give up. But stress and anxiety lead to mental illness and reduce the ability of the body to fight back against the growth of cancer cells.

The fact is that access to social services can reduce stress and anxiety. Art classes are just an example of activities that are beneficial for terminal cancer patients.

So how does art help in reducing stress and anxiety?

Art Helps with Self-Expression 

Surveys state that cancer patients don’t have enough information about their cases and they can’t make the informed decisions they should be able to. This naturally leads to a lot of stress and anxiety, which could be easily avoided.

These feelings of frustration can build up inside, which further worsens the situation for the patient. Art offers an outlet for patients to get these emotions out into the open.

It’s theorized by many scientists that images are the most potent tools to help people feel emotions. The belief goes that images are far more effective at communicating emotions than words, at least in terms of speed.

Many participants in art therapy have never picked up a pencil since they left school. But this act of self-release can allow cancer patients to express what they may not be able to with close family members and their doctors.

Reducing the Isolation Felt by Cancer Patients 

Social isolation is a real problem for cancer patients. It’s both due to depression and the reality that many hobbies simply can’t be pursued any longer. But interaction is important for mental health and encourages health-seeking behaviors. In other words, it increases the chances of a patient taking a proactive role in their treatment.

Communal art classes enable cancer patients to mix in a new environment. They can speak to others going through the same experiences.

This is vital because many cancer sufferers struggle to connect with anyone who understands what it’s like to go through a terminal disease.

It could be the key for anyone trying to survive deadly cancers like mesothelioma. Paul Kraus, the world’s longest mesothelioma survivor, expresses great importance to hobbies and activities that help to relax the mind and release anxiety. He talks about this and the disease in great detail on his website survivingmesothelioma.com.

Supporting Caregivers

It’s easy to forget that cancer also attracts a great amount of strain for caregivers. Caregivers are also at risk of mental health problems when caring for a loved one. The fact is that caregivers pass on their feelings and frustrations to their loved ones.

Art therapy allows caregivers to feel the same release that cancer sufferers do. This creates a stronger care unit and improves care at home.

Expressing the Unsaid

In addition to the first point in this article, it’s important to mention that no matter how comfortable a cancer patient is there are still thoughts that will remain unsaid.

These dark, negative thoughts can be crippling. Art is sometimes the only way in which these thoughts can ever come out. In art therapy there’s no compulsion to speak about the meaning behind a piece of art.

It’s an ideal way of getting even the darkest thoughts into the open.

Valuing Escapism 

Another reason why terminal cancer patients are advised to attend art classes is so they can indulge in escapism. Living with a disease that can’t be fully cured is difficult and, for many cancer patients, it can be nearly impossible.

Art therapy allows them to escape that reality, if only for an hour or two per week.

It works on the same principle as anyone watching TV or spending their time in any other hobby. They’re passing the time in a way that makes them forget about everything else.

That escapism can vastly improve their quality of life.

Improve Performance throughout Hospitalization

Hospitals across the nation are offering art therapy for patients. This is a result of the growing amount of evidence demonstrating that the overall length of hospital stays can be reduced.

The research shows that patients who participate in art classes are less likely to need pain medications and are more likely to be open to the idea of using anti-cancer medications in the first place.

At the very least, art therapy improves quality of life for patients. Furthermore, for those patients who have mere weeks or months to survive, the level of end-of-life care can be elevated.

Does Art Therapy Help in Practice?

It’s easy to think that art therapy is only a theory and there’s no real evidence to back up the claims. While scientists have yet to understand exactly how it helps, they know it does help because of studies conducted.

In studies where patients underwent art therapy at the same time as chemotherapy, at least 90% of people said they found it helpful during chemotherapy. They said it was helpful for the reasons listed above.

Such anecdotal evidence repeated on a consistent basis points only to the fact that art therapy is worth exploring for terminal cancer sufferers.

Last Word – Art Therapy is a Breakthrough

The value of mental health can’t be underestimated. Art therapy can offer that breakthrough many cancer patients need to reduce how anxious they feel about the difficult road ahead.

In short, art therapy is becoming more prominent than ever before. And the scientific evidence is lending further strength to the argument in favor of utilizing art therapy for terminal cancer patients.

Do you believe that art therapy is important in a terminal cancer patient’s life?