Now that the introduction is out of the way, I can finally get into the magic of this blog. What will be a bit more fun or interesting about the actual blogging part is the story that will always preface the realization of ignorance.
Today was a bit all over the place. I have been in a state of “getting my crap together” for the past year, which leaves me undeniably behind in every aspect of my life. The irony of getting things together and therefore having things fall apart is something that is not lost on me. For lack of a better description- adulting is hard. Today in one of my feats of adulting (getting my car detailed and ready to trade) I was able to have a nice talk with a friend who gave me a lift about the struggles of women. While having this discussion we tackled many of the things that I know that I know:
- hormones are annoying and make us feel crazy
- women undergo many changes in the span from first menstruation to menopause that no one talks about
- The human body baffles me
We also covered many things that I know, and fully accept, that I don’t know:
- serotonin and it’s effects on the body
- why women process emotions different than men
- The effects of medication and steroid use on hormones in the female body
Which leads me to the end of our conversation. After discussing the body, hormones, moods, depression, etc we moved onto the topic of depression in athletes. Is there a link between former athletes and depression, and is this link due to the change in endorphin levels once the athlete ends training.
I DIDN’T KNOW THAT I DIDN’T KNOW THAT SO MANY FORMER ATHLETES ARE DEPRESSED! So I started researching! Here is what I found:
A PhD student studying sports psychology noted that, “Athletes have had regular doses of serotonin daily for many years, when this is suddenly decreased or stopped outright, we see a huge upset to the chemistry of the body”(Vickers).
She also explained that, “A causal link between an imbalance in serotonin levels and depression has been explored by a number of researchers, however, more research in retired athletes posits exploration”(Vickers). Which plays into my initial thoughts about the link between retired athletes and depression. When the body is use to elevated serotonin levels from exercise or training, when that training stops, and the serotonin levels drop, the athlete- I would assume- would feel a bit of an unpleasant detox. Also interesting is that, “regular exercise is known to release feelgood chemicals such as neurotransmitters and endorphins which help reduce depression and anxiety. At the same time, stress in itself produces hormones which can lead to chemical imbalances with too little serotonin in the brain.”(Ellis).
It is also interesting that author Alfie Potts Harmer reported that athletes have among the highest rates of mental illness with as many as 25% experiencing depression. While this percentage is of all athletes, and not just retired athletes, this large percentage is definitely worth mentioning.
Something baffling that I found in my own research was that, “Research has revealed that when participation in sport stops, either temporarily or permanently, professional and elite-level athletes can experience the same psychological stages as people grieving the loss of a loved one. These are, typically: shock or denial, despair, anger, depression, pre-occupation, re-organisation, and finally acceptance”(Louise Ellis). This kind of plays both along with and against the idea of retired athletes biologically having different hormone levels and therefore feeling depressed. Athletes are both emotionally involved, as well as physically involved with the sport to the effects can be assumed to be both emotional and physical as well.
Thanks for learning with me!