Depression and brain tumours

A brain tumour diagnosis is a major life event and as a result it's very natural to experience moments when you feel distressed and overwhelmed. When these feelings linger on for weeks and months, they could be a sign of depression.

What is depression?

Depression is not a sign of weakness and is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Like many physical conditions, depression is an illness which can usually be managed or treated if dealt with appropriately.

It can range from feeling relatively low for a number of weeks with no interest in what you usually enjoy, to having persistent negative thoughts and finding it mentally and physically difficult to take part in your usual daily activities.

Signs and symptoms of depression

Due to the wide range of possible symptoms, some people do not realise that they are depressed.

Emotional symptoms of depression

  • Low mood (for most of the time, which you cannot lift yourself out of)
  • Not feeling your usual self
  • Not enjoying anything, even your favourite activities
  • Poor concentration and forgetfulness
  • Feelings of guilt, burden or blame
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, vulnerable or oversensitive
  • Irritability
  • Avoiding people
  • Suicidal feelings

Physical symptoms of depression

  • Physical aches and pains
  • Tiredness and loss of energy
  • Loss of sex drive/ sexual difficulties
  • Loss or increase of appetite
  • Problems getting off to sleep or waking early
  • Poor sleeping patterns or sleeplessness.

Depression can affect each person differently. However, most people with depression are likely to experience more than one of the above symptoms. If you think you might be depressed, seeking advice from your GP would be a good first step in dealing with depression.

If you are affected by a brain tumour and feel you cannot cope with your current situation, you can call The Brain Tumour Charity's Support & Information Line.

If you need someone to talk to outside office hours, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123.

How can my brain tumour cause depression?

A brain tumour diagnosis can affect a person in a number of ways that could potentially lead to some form of short or long-term depression.

The emotional impact of a diagnosis

Everything we have built over the years, our expectations, our way of life and our reality, can be threatened instantly by a brain tumour diagnosis. A person, patient or carer, can go from feeling psychologically secure and content with their life to feeling fearful and uncertain. Experiencing such feelings is natural following a brain tumour diagnosis and in some people it could contribute to the onset of depression.

The tumour's effect on the brain

The brain controls all aspects of our personality. In some cases, a growing tumour can press against the structures which regulate mood, causing unusual mood swings and, in some cases, depression.

The tumour's effect on quality of life

A brain tumour can cause some forms of physical or cognitive disability which can limit what you are able to do and how you socialise. For example, if you experience difficulty moving around due to a brain tumour, you may leave the house less than you used to, or be unable to do the physical activities you used to enjoy before your diagnosis.

If you are caring for someone with a brain tumour, you may have a lot less time to spend on yourself, seeing friends and doing the things you used to enjoy. You may also have to give up work for a period of time. These would be major changes in anyone's life, affecting their emotional wellbeing in the short or long-term.

How can I cope with mild depression?

These are some self-help techniques some have found helpful in dealing with low mood and mild depression:

  • Talking to others about how you are feeling e.g. close friends or family, or others experiencing similar feelings via a support group or The Brain Tumour Charity's closed Facebook group
  • Practicing relaxation techniques (such as medidation, yoga and tai chi)
  • Maintaining your social contacts and intereacting with other people can keep your mind from negative thought patterns
  • Managing your energy levels by making sure you rest when you feel that your body needs it
  • Getting enough sleep / rest as feeling tired and sleep deprived can make you feel more emotional
  • Taking up moderate exercise, you could begin with a 20 minute walk every day and it could contribute to an improvement in your mood

For details about support groups in your local area, take a look at our brain tumour support groups page.

Can my depression be treated?

The first step in dealing with depression is to recognise and accept the fact that you may be suffering from it. It is important to understand that you can seek help and express how you feel to your loved ones, and your GP exactly what you are going through.

Your GP will suggest the appropriate treatment options for you based on the severity of your condition.

Talking therapies

Talking therapies for depression include forms of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling. Your doctor may suggest you try a type of talking therapy if you have moderate depression.


If you suffer from severe depression, your GP may refer you to a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists can offer you emotional support similar to talking therapies, but as qualified doctors, they can prescribe medication such as antidepressants and also refer you to other types of treatment.


There are almost 30 different kinds of antidepressant medication for moderate or severe depression. Antidepressants may cause side effects, but they are usually quite mild. Your doctor or psychiatrist will take into consideration other treatments you may be having for your brain tumour when prescribing you with antidepressants.

Get support

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, we offer a range of support as well as information about other brain tumour side-effects you may experience.

You may also wish to join our friendly and supportive Facebook community where you can meet othersin a similar situation.

Page last reviewed: 06/2016
Next review date: 06/2019

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