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Mood Disturbance

Girl looking sad out a window
Credit: iStock

What is Mood Disturbance

Mood disturbance can involve feelings of distress or sadness, or symptoms of depression and anxiety. A brain or spine tumor diagnosis can cause a variety of changes in emotions and mood that can affect the way you think and feel. 


Distress is an unpleasant psychological, social, spiritual, and/or physical experience that affects the way you think, feel, or act. Distress is normal feeling during cancer care, but it may make it harder to cope. 

Distress may include the following symptoms: 

  • Feeling sad, fearful, worried, angry, or helpless
  • Changes in sleep, eating habits, or social life
  • Changes in your ability to take care of yourself and/or others
  • Questioning your faith, your purpose, or the meaning of life
  • Frequent thoughts about illness or death
  • Difficulty concentrating 


Anxiety is a persistent feeling of distress, worry, and/or tension that can happen with or without a cause. 

Anxiety may include the following symptoms: 

  • Bodily symptoms, such as shortness of breath, sweating, headache, or muscle tension
  • Negative thoughts and feelings, such as excessive worrying, feeling afraid, irritable, or “on edge”
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Changes in sleep 
  • Becoming tired easily 


Sadness or depressive symptoms is a change in your mood, that can cause ups and downs, feeling blue or disappointment that interferes with daily activities. 

Sadness may include the following symptoms:

  • Feeling depressed, hopeless, empty, guilty, or worthless
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in most activities
  • Lack of energy
  • Changes in sleep pattern, sexual drive, or appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Thoughts of self-harm or death
Changes in Mood

Ways to Manage Mood Disturbance

  • Keep a log of any mood changes and symptoms you are experiencing and look for patterns in a journal or the My STORITM app.
  • Consider bringing a supportive family member or friend to your health care visits. Talk with your doctor about any questions you have, as understanding your disease and treatment plan can help reduce uncertainty.
  • Create a routine that includes a variety of relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxation, massage, prayer, mindfulness, meditation, or listening to calming music.
  • Check in with yourself often. Concentrate on positive thoughts and emotions. Try reading an inspirational or funny book, writing positive messages, or thinking about three good things that happened each day.
  • Focus on your beliefs and values. Find activities that prioritize what matters to you, such as spending time with loved ones, volunteering, practicing your faith, or meditating. 
  • Try doing things that make you feel like yourself again, such as writing in a journal or setting goals
  • If your distress, anxiety, or depression is persistent, ask your doctor about starting counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, music therapy, or guided imagery. 

Some self-care activities you can do to improve mood disturbance can include diet, exercise, sleep, or medication

  • Nutritional issues can underlie depression. Work with your health care provider to develop a nutrition plan. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks. Alcohol use may increase feelings of depression, anxiety, or distress. Caffeine use may increase feelings of anxiety. 
  • Exercise may be helpful in managing mood disturbances and can improve the way you feel.  Yoga in particular may be helpful in relieving anxiety symptoms. 
  • Some medications may cause anxiety or depression as a side effect. Ask if there are other medications you should take to manage these side effects. Share this information with your doctor. 

When to Report Mood Disturbance

Connect with your doctor and discuss any concerns you have. Share your logged symptoms and self-care activities with them.

  • Ask your doctor when and how to report your symptoms to them. 
  • Report if your mood disturbance gets worse, if your mood is severe (>7), or mood does not improve from your self-care activities.

Ask your doctor what you should do in the case of an emergency and when your mood disturbance should be reported urgently. 

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