Former Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton Talks about Depression

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.

Symptoms include:

* 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
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/
www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/depression.html

Depression and exercise
www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043
www.psychologymatters.org/exercise.html
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15626549
www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1724301
www.mayoclinic.com/print/depression-and-exercise/MH00043/METHOD=print

Get Help
www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/getting-help-locate-services/index.shtml
www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=home

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.

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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