Recognising the Symptoms
Depression is a common mental disorder, the symptoms of which can include feeling a prolonged and seemingly unshifting sadness or anxiety, tiredness and loss of energy, an enduring sense of helplessness and hopelessness, loss of self-confidence and self-esteem, difficulty concentrating and not being able to enjoy the things that one used to find pleasurable or interesting. Half of the people who have depression will only experience it once but for the other half it will occur again. The length of time that it takes to recover ranges from around six months to a year or more.
Sufferers frequently speak of a strong desire to avoid other people, sometimes even their close friends, exacerbated by very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Someone with depression may find it particularly hard to function at work, more so if they are experiencing the sleep loss or disturbed sleep that are common symptoms of the illness. Physical aches and pains, suicidal thoughts, a preoccupation with death, self-harm and a loss of appetite or sex drive are also commonly associated with studies into people who are experiencing depression.
It is important to understand that depression is different from feeling down or sad. Unhappiness is something which everyone feels at one time or another, usually due to a particular cause. A person experiencing depression will feel intense emotions of negativity, which stay with them for a prolonged period and that can feel disconnected from the relationships and life events around them in a way that unhappiness does not.
Depression can happen suddenly, sometimes as a result of a physical illness including heart disease, back pain, cancer or in some cases pituitary damage, a treatable condition which frequently follows head injuries. Depression can also be connected to experiences dating back to childhood, unemployment, bereavement, family problems or other life-changing events. Sometimes, there may be no clear reason for a person's depression but, whatever the original cause, identifying what may affect how that person feels and the things that are likely to trigger their depression is an important first step.
Depression in Sport
In recent years, acknowledgement of depression has increased within the elite athlete population. Despite the large number of athletes talking about their battle with the illness and our knowledge of depressive criteria, prevalence and treatment, a great deal remains unknown about this phenomenon. Previously, involvement in sport has been identified as positive and beneficial for self-esteem, anxiety and stress. However, recent research suggests sport can enhance stress levels due to the additional stressors that athletes encounter and that a high-performance sport in a competitive setting can in some cases cause distress. In many sports, career termination has always been perceived as an important milestone, given the significant and influential role of the sporting identity. Other transitions experienced by a professional sportspeople such as being dropped, injured, relocating or even being promoted to team captain can all play a significant role as triggers for depression.
Living with depression is difficult for those who suffer from it and for their family, friends, and colleagues. It can be difficult to for a person to know if they are suffering from depression or what they should do even if they believe they are. If they are a professional or former professional sportsperson, we would encourage them to call the number below. Sporting Chance offers entirely confidential support which is free to anyone who is or has ever been a member of the PFA and we have agreements in place with a number of other sports which could partially or wholly fund any treatment.