Every time I encounter information about depression symptomology, I am surprised by the proportion of physical markers: increased or decreased appetite, feeling agitated, headaches, back pain, joint pain, thinking problems, delusions, and exhaustion / fatigue. I know as a prior competitive athlete that I have felt all of these symptoms at the same time. Was it from depression or overtraining? I am not sure what the solution to this puzzle is, and honestly I don’t care. Rather, discovery of this question and discussion of it is where value resides for future work with athlete and performers.

So how could a sport psychologist decipher the difference between back pain from injury and back pain from depression? Some of these physical markers for depression closely resemble training byproducts. Take for example, an adventure racing athlete in peak training; he / she is putting the body through a hellish physical experience that may even induce a contextual depression. As another example, imagine a highly active athlete who has just broken two bones and must stay in bed for a month. Will these athletes experience a major / minor / induced depression? The relationship between mind and body continues to amaze me in its depth, breadth, and importance.

Lastly, how should athletes from contexts similar to those described above be conceptualized and treated? What is best for them in both physical and mental recovery? Going back to my personal experience, retrospection is always 20/20; I would have liked to know that physically induced depressive symptoms are a normal cause-effect relationship that in contextual to training intensity or injury. Perhaps normalizing and educating clients could serve as a starting point. This requires knowledge of these kinds of cause-effect relationships between mind-body that I must research.