A recent People magazine article reported that former Olympian track star, Suzy Favor Hamilton, opened up about her longstanding battle with depression. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia she was expected to do very well in her event, the 1500- meter, when she collapsed on the track. Many speculated on what might have caused the mysterious breakdown, buy Suzy now reveals that it was depression that caused it, telling People ” I couldn’t face the world anymore. I closed my eyes and pretended to pass out.” Her illness became so bad after her first pregnancy, that she even considered suicide. She finally sought help and has greatly improved on medication.
Suzy’s story is interesting because, although it is well known that exercise can help people with mild to moderate depression, it can also hide the underlying issues which may require medical or psychological intervention. Elite athletes may use their exercise as a crutch, pushing their workouts to forget or ignore what is really bothering them.
Although most people have days when they feel unhappy or sad, depression is distinguished from this “situational depression” by the fact that these feeling do not go away in a few days, and that symptoms interfere with everyday life.
* Persistent sad or anxious feelings
* Feelings of hopelessness
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
* Irritability, restlessness
* Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once considered pleasurable, including sex
* Fatigue and decreased energy
* Difficulty concentrating and memory problems
* Insomnia or excessive sleeping
* Overeating, or appetite loss
* Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
* Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Treatment for depression must be tailored to the individual; primary treatment is usually by a combination of antidepressant medication and CBT – cognitive behavioral therapy.
Depression and exercise
The classic book on CBT is “Feeling Good” by Dr. David Burns. Dr. Dean Schuyler’s book is a tutorial on practicing cognitive therapy but is also useful for patients.