Breaking Taboos about Depression in Professional Sports
Treating depression begins by rejecting the stigma that those struggling with their mental health are weak. This stigma can be particularity damaging for professional athletes struggling with depression and other mental illness.
For young people at risk for depression, the tennis world can exacerbate these symptoms, professional athletes recently told The Telegraph.
Twenty-four-year-old Nicole Gibbs, an American who was once the 68th ranked tennis player in the world, suffers from clinical depression and is one of the few athletes who is open about her struggle. She described tennis as fostering a “constant identity crisis.” The “ups and downs” of the sport, she explained, “made things almost unbearable for [her].”
Depression remains a taboo in tennis in particular, and in other competitive sports at large. Pro tennis players often do not speak openly about grappling with mental health issues until they retire, fearing being labelled weak or unfit to compete. Among those who have opened up later in life include Andre Agassi, Pat Cash, and Cliff Richey, according to The Telegraph.
Are You At Risk For Depression?
Tennis is a particularly high-pressure endeavour, due to a barrage of negative feedback, near constant traveling, and neglected social and family bonds. Players describe feeling lonely and homesick, and “breaking down” seemingly without reason.
“If anyone is at risk for depression, tennis is going to amplify it for sure,” Gibbs told The Telegraph.
Experts say that living with great unpredictability, having an unreliable income, and enduring heavy critique of your professional performance can hurt your resilience and amplify symptoms of depression for those prone to it. These conditions are prevalent in the tennis world, as well as for many who have made their lives outside of sports.
But there are many other factors also need to be taken into consideration to determine whether you could be at risk for depression.
- Genetic Predisposition: If you have a family history of depression, you might be more likely to struggle with it.
- Isolation: Lacking social connection and support over a long period of time can lead to depression.
- Big Life Changes: Moving, having a child, getting married, or getting divorced can all trigger mental health struggles.
- Experiencing the Death of a Loved One: Sadness is a natural part of grieving, but if it lasts months, it could be indicative of something more serious.
- Sleep Problems: Suffering from a lack of sleep—which many tennis players do, due to jet lag—can contribute to the diagnosis of mood disorders.
- Other Serious Health Issues: Dealing with the pain and stress of a chronic illness like diabetes or cancer is linked to depression.
- Substance Abuse: Drug and alcohol abuse can create chemical imbalances in the brain that can lead to depression.
What Are The Symptoms of Depression?
Tennis player Nicole Gibbs first experienced signs of depression when she was in high school, as she was working to go professional. However, she believes her symptoms got worse after she became an adult and the pressure on her—from others and that which she put on herself—increased.
Depressive symptoms require treatment when they are prolonged, have physical effects, or keep you from living the life you want.
They can include:
- Negative thinking—feeling pessimistic, hopeless, helpless, guilty
- Fatigue and irritability
- Changes in sleep patterns—waking up too early, sleeping too much, or being unable to sleep at all
- Changes to appetite—eating too much or too little, and other digestive issues
- Loss of interest in sex
- Persisting pain
- Suicidal thoughts
What Treatment Options Exist?
The most common treatment for clinical depression is medication, of which there are many choices. But while medication helps to ease depressive symptoms, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) treats the thought patterns, actions, and feelings associated with depression. This is why CBT is the treatment favoured by The Cabin Bangkok—it has been shown to be twice as effective as medication alone in helping patients recover from depression in the long term.
Our unique CBT method is customised to each individual’s needs and challenges, and is implemented in a one-on-one setting. The goal is emotional stability, empowerment, and realistic thinking.
After two to three therapy sessions a week for two to three months, clients typically leave our program with the tools to cope with depression independently. Our outpatient program in Bangkok allows you to work toward fostering a healthier mind while not taking you away from the life you have worked hard to establish.
Knowing when to seek help for depression is a sign of strength, not weakness. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.