Depression in Athletes


Depression is insidious. It creeps up on you with stealth silence. The “blahs”, turn into the ongoing, deepening mental black and blues. Days can start with “oh, no…not again, with covers pulled back over your head. It’s like nothing you’ve ever gone up against. And you can’t just will it away.


To say you’re not alone is an understatement. 322 million people worldwide suffer from depression, according to the World Health Organization. Over 34 million people in this country alone, are currently suffering from depression.  According to Statista, a market and consumer data specialist, from December 29, 2021, to January 10, 2022, around 25 percent of female respondents in the U.S. recently felt symptoms of depressive disorder compared to 21 percent of males. But when it comes to statistics, there are multiple forces at play. On the one hand, more people have the courage to admit their condition today. On the other hand, men are culturally conditioned to hide their emotions, especially any expressions of sadness, weakness, or vulnerability. So even though depression is very common among men, the statistics are underreported.


It’s not just one thing, it’s many things. The most prominent symptoms of major depression are a severe and persistent low mood, profound sadness, or a sense of despair. A major depressive episode (MDE) is described as experiencing a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities, accompanied by problems with sleeping, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth for two weeks or longer.


Depression looks different for everybody. There’s no garden variety.

For example, are you simply drowning in a faulty gene pool? Some scientists believe that as many as 40 percent of those with depression can trace it to a genetic link. A person who has a relative with depression is almost five times as likely to develop it. Seasonal Affective Disorder which is when people experience depressive symptoms with seasonal patterns, affects around five percent of Americans every year. Environmental toxins can cause depression. As can PMS, perimenopause, menopause, and andropause. Tennis legend Serena Williams has opened up about postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter Olympia in 2017.


And while we are talking about athletic greats, Naomi Osaka, the second-ranked female tennis player in the world, and highest-paid female athlete in the world, dropped out of the French Open due to depression. Chloe Kim, who at 17 became the youngest woman to take Gold in Olympic snowboarding, struggled with depression. The world was shocked when its gymnastic superstar Simone Biles withdrew from the team finals at the summer games citing mental health issues.


Depression can do a lot to a bodybuilder’s gains. Both physically and mentally. A negative mindset can make it hard to gain muscle, or even lean out. Depression has been shown to play a role in muscle growth, sleep, and recovery. It can make it harder to burn fat. To fill in the void from dieting during prepping, bodybuilders can often have irresistible snack cravings, leading to fat gain. All you feel like lifting is a bag of Lays. When you’re depressed, it can be extremely hard to stick to any of your goals.


The big question to answer is whether or not you are, in fact, suffering from chronic depression. Could it be something else? Hypothyroidism is often misdiagnosed as depression. Diabetes is another possibility. Now new research suggests that social media platforms, including Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok, were associated with an increased likelihood of depressive symptoms in adults who didn’t initially report depression. The other issue is that when someone starts to feel messed up, they go to see their regular doctor, instead of seeking out help from a specialist.


So, you go to your doctor. They immediately put you on Prozac or Celexa or Zoloft or Paxil or Effexor or maybe even a mix here and there. The global antidepressant drugs market was $18.1 billion in 2021, forecast to grow to $32 billion by 2030. That’s a lot of antidepressants being spread around out there. Often without digression. Antidepressants that can come with some hefty side effects–agitation, shakes, stomach aches and indigestion, diarrhea or constipation, dizziness, headaches, weight gain, racing heart, palpitations, blurred vision, sex problems…If you really don’t need them, you can end up feeling sick and depressed. In which case tapering off of them can take anywhere from weeks to months. Stopping them cold turkey can cause serious withdrawal symptoms. And stopping cold is what a great number of people do, because they hate the way they feel on them.


So we ask again? What if your depression is due to something else? Like hormones. When something is out of balance with your hormones, it has an effect on the whole system. Which means you’re going to feel it manifest both in your body and your mind. Each of the following hormones can mess you up mentally, if they’re messed up:

  1. Estrogen
  2. Progesterone
  3. Testosterone
  4. Thyroid
  5. Cortisol
  6. Insulin
  7. DHEA

An imbalance in any one of them can cause depression. And it’s common to have imbalances in several of them at the same time. You do the math.


It could be as simple as getting your hormone levels tested at SculptedMD. Depression isn’t a choice. But you do have the choice of getting the kind of help you really need. At SculptedMD they’ve been helping patients of all ages, athletes or not, find their way out of the often-debilitating depression that can make simply existing a full-time job. All the medical hormone specialists at SculptedMD understand that trying to keep depression a secret from other people can be exhausting and alienating in itself.  When you’re dealing with something so difficult, the instinct is not to talk about it. (So much for talk therapy.) But at SculptedMD, they make you feel like you can about anything. No judgment. Just compassion. And hope. “Buck up”, isn’t a solution. But there’s a good chance SculptedMD can be. So call SculptedMD for an appointment now. And get back in your speedos and sparkling bikinis. You’ve got competitions to win.


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