Kathy Griffin's Coping Mechanisms
- Comedian Kathy Griffin says she has panic attacks from PTSD, and connecting with friends in real life is a “total game changer” in coping with it.
- Griffin revealed her stage 1 lung cancer diagnosis back in Aug. 2021. For treatment, she underwent a left lung resection that took a huge toll on her vocal chords.
- Griffin says she started experiencing symptoms of PTSD about five years ago. To cope, she also takes walks along the beach and reminds herself that anxiety attacks don’t last forever.
- Check out SurvivorNet’s great mental health resources for you.
The 62-year-old lung cancer survivor took to Instagram to share a video and photo compilation of her recent dinner party, surrounded by her friends, dogs, drinks, and good eats.Read More
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Some of her friends in attendance were comedian Maureen (Mo) Ann Collins, journalist Victor Shi, TV writer Louis Virtel, and technology journalist Casey Newton.
Griffin and seven of her friends were seen in a group shot gathered by a table, where they enjoyed each other’s company and made new memories.
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“Salon night with the incredible @kathygriffin What a stimulating night this was. Woke AF,” Collins wrote on Instagram, also sharing photos from their gathering.
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Replying on Griffin’s social media post recapping the event, Collins added, “Good people help. We were going through it yesterday, managed to pull ourselves together for this incredible night, and it was real therapy. Look for the helpers! This night was a gift. Thank you again.”
Griffin dressed up for the occasion with a long black dress, white-collared shirt, and her Prada shoes.
She looked like a new person after explaining earlier this month that her “extreme” post-traumatic stress disorder can cause her to vomit and “writhe” in pain from “terrifying panic attacks.”
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Griffin, who was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer as a non-smoker in August 2021 and continues to recover, informed fans about her mental health struggle about a week ago.
She explained in another Instagram post, “I have been diagnosed with complex PTSD and for the last year and a half I have been plagued with terrifying panic attacks.”
“Sometimes they last a few hours or more typically, they last at least a full day if not multiple days in a row. I feel silly even telling you this, because I always thought PTSD was just for veterans and stuff,” she added.
“During my attacks, I typically vomit quite a bit and often have to go to the ER just to get IV fluids. Anybody else?”
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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Complex PTSD, or CPTSD, as per the Cleveland Clinic, can come from experiencing chronic (long-term) trauma. CPTSD involves stress responses, such as:
- Having flashbacks or nightmares.
- Avoiding situations, places and other things related to the traumatic event.
- Heightened emotional responses, such as impulsivity or aggressiveness.
- Persistent difficulties in sustaining relationships.
- Psychotherapy (talk therapy) is the main treatment for complex PTSD.
If you, or anyone you know, think you are having any of these symptoms, for instance after a cancer diagnosis or treatment, it’s important to reach out to your doctor.
A patient navigator can also assist in connecting you with a mental health professional who can offer important treatment.
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Griffin says that when she feels a panic attack coming on, she deals with it by walking outside by the ocean to relax. She also reassures herself that the attack will pass and “it won’t last forever.”
Mental Health for Cancer Survivors Like Kathy Griffin
Just as Griffin has shown, mental health should be prioritized whether you’ve beat cancer or not. In regard to taking care of your mental health, you should always be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
Signs and symptoms of mental health disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:
- Feeling sad or down
- Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
- Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
- Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
- Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
- Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
- Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
- Problems with alcohol or drug use
- Major changes in eating habits
- Sex drive changes
- Excessive anger, hostility or violence
- Suicidal thinking
Symptoms can also show up as physical problems like stomach pain, back pain, headaches or other unexplained aches and pains.
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If you ever experience any signs or symptoms of a mental illness, make sure to quickly see your doctor or a mental health professional. It’s important to note that symptoms of a mental health disorder or issue can vary from person to person.
Coping With Anxiety
According to the Anxiety Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting nearly 40 million adults 18 years and older.
Anxiety can arise through factors including genetics, personality, brain chemistry, and life circumstances. Despite being highly treatable, only about 37% of people receive treatment for anxiety disorders.
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Symptoms of anxiety include feelings of irritability, fatigue, and nervousness. People struggling with anxiety also have trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and rapid heart rate which leads to hyperventilation. Therapy and medication are the two most recommended forms of treatment for individuals with anxiety, and treatments vary depending on the type of anxiety an individual has.
Dr. Marianna Strongin, a clinical psychologist and founder of Strong In Therapy, has been helping the SurvivorNet community by sharing coping mechanisms and a structured way to think about handling issues like anxiety.
“The way that I define anxiety is that it’s an internal question that we simply can’t find the answers to,” Dr. Strongin previously told SurvivorNet.
Dr. Strongin said that one of the main causes of anxiety is uncertainty about life.
The first step for coping during stressful circumstances is understanding one’s anxiety.
To do this, Dr. Strongin suggests checking in with oneself everyday to see where the anxiety is manifesting and what questions are causing the anxiety. From there, it’s important to answer those questions and reassure oneself with positivity.
“The answers are our coping skills,” Dr. Strongin explained. “Some people are really good at always giving themselves answers…other people don’t have the coping skills to answer their anxiety and as a result the anxiety increases.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Scott Irwin, a psychiatrist and director of supportive care services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told SurvivorNet in an earlier interview, “Talk therapy really is the way to deal with these emotions.”
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He explained, “It’s about meeting the individual patient where they are and their feelings, how they’ve always dealt with their body image, what the body image changes mean now in their lives and their relationships, and how they can move forward given the new reality.”
Kathy Griffin’s Battle With Lung Cancer
Kathy Griffin explained that her PTSD started about five years ago, before her cancer journey, noting the condition “didn’t help” with her diagnosis.
The comic shared her stage 1 lung cancer diagnosis as a non-smoker back in Aug. 2021. Thankfully, the cancer appeared to only be in one part of her lung, so she underwent surgery to have half of her left lung removed.
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By December 2021, Griffin said she was cancer-free, but still had significant amount of recovering to go. Also, following surgery, her voice was changed by an intubation tube giving her a “Minnie Mouse meets Marilyn Monroe“-sounding voice.
Then, by her 6-month check up in February, her scans were revealed to be clear, prompting her to surprise her followers with a video showcasing the return of her voice in June, which she was sad to say suffered irreversible damage.
However, in December 2022, Griffin revealed she was having another operation done to help her voice.
She explained in a video clip shared to Instagram, “I’m on my way to the hospital again, because I have to go into general to get another procedure on my vocal cords. So, the good news is I get to come home today.
“But last time I got this done, it hurt for like seven days. But I’m just being a baby. But I want to get my voice back, you know, I’ll do anything.”
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
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