Severe depression is a problem that can affect athletes — but effective treatment options are available. With the right approach to severe or treatment-resistant depression, athletes can get the help they need to manage their depression symptoms.
Athletes often strive for “perfection,” and it is not uncommon for athletes to experience severe depression, which is reflected in two Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology studies. A 2010 study indicates that the number of college-level athletes with depression and anxiety ranges from 16% to 21%. Additionally, in a 2007 study, researchers found that female athletes are more prone to depression and anxiety than male athletes, as well as male and female non-athletes.
Sports injuries are one of the leading causes of severe depression in athletes. Generally, an athlete identifies strongly with their sport, and are disturbed when an injury prevents him or her from competing. As an athlete recovers from injury, the individual cannot achieve his or her sports goals. As such, this athlete is more susceptible to depression at this time, and a perceived lack of self-worth.
Some athletes struggle with stressors that causes severe depression as well. For example, a professional athlete who suffers a career-ending injury may experience financial stress that ultimately leads to severe depression, and a college athlete may feel undue pressure to perform perfectly at specific events.
Furthermore, a change in an athlete’s workout or exercise routine sometimes triggers depression symptoms. An athlete who spends many hours training for his or her sport may develop a consistent workout or exercise regimen. If or when this routine is interrupted or altered, the inability to exercise may trigger or deepen depression symptoms.
Common Depression Symptoms in Athletes
Depression symptoms in athletes include:
- Lack of concentration and/or motivation
- Mood swings
- Low energy
- Increase in alcohol and/or drug use
An athlete who experiences one or more of the aforementioned symptoms should consult with a doctor to find the best way to cope with his or her depression symptoms.
How Can Athletes with Depression and Anxiety Cope with Their Symptoms?
Athletes with depression and anxiety sometimes struggle to get the help they need, and have a tendency to hide mental health challenges in the pursuit of perfectionism. In these instances, the consequences can be fatal. Consider the stories of college athletes Madison Holleran and Tyler Hilinski.
Holleran was a track athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, and she frequently posted images on Instagram that detailed what appeared to be an enjoyable freshman year of college. However, Holleran was suffering in silence, and on Jan. 17, 2014, she committed suicide.
Hilinski played quarterback at Washington State University, and he showed no indications that he was struggling with depression or any other mental health conditions. On Jan. 16, 2018, Hilinski took his own life, shocking his family and close friends.
The stories of Holleran and Hilinski are tragic, and they highlight the danger for athletes with depression and/or anxiety that go untreated. At the first sign of depression symptoms, it is crucial for an athlete to seek out help. For those who believe a friend or family member is struggling with depression, it often helps to open the lines of communication and speak directly about the loved one’s symptoms. If a person understands that he or she is not alone in the battle with depression and anxiety, they may be able to take the first step to seek treatment or life changes that will help alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms.
There is no surefire solution to treat severe depression and anxiety, but several athletes recently shared their thoughts with bp Magazine on how to treat severe depression symptoms, including:
- Dorothy Hamill: Hamill, an Olympic figure skater, was diagnosed with depression in 1993. She has used a combination of medication, therapy, and a support group to help address her depression symptoms.
- Clint Malarchuk: Malarchuk, a former NHL goaltender, struggled with depression, PTSD, alcoholism, OCD, and suicidal thoughts after his neck was slashed by another player’s skate blade during a game in 1989. He used psychotherapy, medication, and meditation to help alleviate his depression symptoms.
- Terry Bradshaw: Bradshaw, a former NFL quarterback, was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1999. He has used both medication and therapy, and maintains faith to help treat his depression symptoms.
As the aforementioned examples show, severe depression is treatable, and many options are available to help athletes manage depression symptoms. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy offers a revolutionary treatment for athletes and others dealing with severe depression, and is often used in combination with therapy or medication to maximize symptom relief.
How Athletes Can Combat Depression with TMS
TMS therapy involves the use of MRI-strength magnetic pulses to stimulate neurons in the brain. The therapy is noninvasive, has no side effects and does not require any electrical shocks or anesthesia. A typical TMS therapy session lasts about 20 minutes, and patients can resume their everyday activities immediately following each therapy session.
A TMS therapy program usually involves five sessions per week, with sessions completed over the course of six weeks. During a TMS therapy session, magnetic pulses are sent to regions of the brain that regulate mood. These pulses help stimulate neural activity, resulting in long-term depression symptom relief and improved quality of life.
The results of TMS therapy to date have been significant with 49% of patients reporting complete remission or absence of symptoms at end of treatment period and 70% reporting a significant response or reduction in symptoms. In Europe, TMS therapy is CE-approved for the treatment of bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain, among other medical conditions. In the United States, TMS therapy is FDA-cleared to treat Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Schedule a TMS Therapy Consultation at Achieve TMS
Achieve TMS is a leading provider of TMS therapy for athletes in the United States. We offer TMS therapy for MDD and treatment-resistant or refractory depression, and work with athletes to help them find the best way to manage their depression symptoms.
Achieve TMS offers free consultations to athletes and others who are considering TMS therapy to treat severe depression. To schedule a free TMS therapy consultation with Achieve TMS, please call or text us today at 877-296-4968 or contact us online for your first consultation.