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Bodybuilding and Depression: Is There a Correlation Between Them?

by Matt Weik

Doing something you love should be fun and bring joy to your life, right? If you were to look at sports, for example, there should be a level of enjoyment each time you pick up a ball, racquet, or bat. Generally, when you no longer find joy in something, or it stops providing you a sense of pleasure, you stop, no? Yet, when you look at bodybuilding, it appears that things aren’t always what they seem.

What exactly am I talking about and getting at with this? It’s bodybuilding and depression. Could the “sport” be causing bodybuilders to find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into a dark place where many of them may never come out alive? I think it’s worth opening up the discussion and talking about it.

What Does It Take to Be A Bodybuilder?

Bodybuilding is no different than any other sport when it comes to the dedication to train and become the best. The separation comes into effect with “what it takes” to be a successful bodybuilder. While baseball and basketball players live it up and can get away with living a lifestyle of partying, drinking, eating whatever they want, and having fun, that’s not exactly the case for bodybuilders.

Due to the strict lifestyle needed to become a successful bodybuilder, it’s easy to see why many of them may have some dark days and even suffer from depression. And this article isn’t meant to be a knock at bodybuilding or any bodybuilder, but rather a wake-up call that this may be an issue worth looking at more closely.

You may be reading this saying, “Matt, you’re not a professional bodybuilder or even an amateur bodybuilder… What the hell do you know?” Well, from my time in the supplement industry, I’ve been around sponsored athletes for a good part of my career and have found myself hanging out with them for days on end, having meals with them, training with them, and having some really deep conversations with them. Personally, I could never be a professional bodybuilder based on what they need to put themselves through – I respect their dedication to become the best.

Many bodybuilders become hermits. Almost prisoners in their own homes. When they say their life revolves around eating, sleeping, and training, they’re 100% being honest.

So, let’s think about this for a minute. Could you do that year after year and segregate yourself from everyone and everything in order to become the best? Look at the guys like Brandon Curry, who goes over to Kuwait for months at a time to prepare for the Mr. Olympia competition. He’s away from his family and kids for months. He misses family events, holidays, and memories. Don’t you think that weighs on him even though he’s trying to make history by winning a Sandow? He is forced to put the blinders on, and his entire focus and energy are put into his training and recovery.

Bodybuilders pack their own meals when they go somewhere, which consists of primarily plain foods, whereas everyone else around them is enjoying delicious, yet unhealthy, foods (burgers, pizza, dessert, etc.).

Because bodybuilders need to prioritize their rest, you may find them going to bed early or taking naps throughout the day. This doesn’t leave much of any time to go out with friends or family. Some bodybuilders skip holidays because they are in the middle of a prep and don’t want the distractions of having food they can’t eat in front of them and be tempted to blow their diet on something not on their plan.

Therefore, many bodybuilders sit at home as if in isolation. People are going out of their minds with COVID as is and hate the fact that they need to stay in their homes – yet this is the lifestyle of many bodybuilders out there other than when they venture out to go to the grocery store or head to the gym.

Factor Everything In – Does Bodybuilding Create Depression?

Over the last few years, many bodybuilders have come out and mentioned they have some demons they need to sort out and that they are suffering from some mental health issues. Some bodybuilders never made it out of this dark place and took their own lives, which is incredibly tragic that they didn’t get the help they so desperately needed.

The lifestyle of those in the sport of bodybuilding (in my opinion) can absolutely cause bodybuilders to fall into a depression. Unfortunately, while some of the bodybuilders have come out and expressed the issues they are having, and how they are feeling (again, in my opinion), I believe there are many more that are fighting their own demons in their head and don’t want to say anything in fear of what people will think of them. This can lead people into a very dark place and start causing them to have some alarming thoughts.

How Can We Fix This Potential Issue?

There is no real “fix” for this issue when it comes to bodybuilding and depression. The thing I want people to understand is that they aren’t alone. There are many bodybuilders out there who are having these feelings. Everyone needs to be more open about it and get the help they need when they start seeing any signs of depression.

We can’t afford to lose any more lives to depression – and that’s not just in our sport but our community as well. While many people see bodybuilders as just that, they are just as much a part of our community as you and me. All lives matter, and we need to take this seriously. If YOU see something, speak up. Reach out. Ask someone how they are feeling. Ask them how they are doing with everything going on. Merely being an ear that listens could mean the world to someone.

As a bodybuilding fan, community, competitor, we all owe it to the sport to support our bodybuilding competitors and help them stay in a good frame of mind. Far too many find themselves in a dark place due to what they feel is necessary to become a great bodybuilder. The sacrifice for many is worth it, while others it completely consumes them. I absolutely see a correlation between bodybuilding and depression. And I just hope the message gets out there and more people wrap their arms around the issue and can address it to help save lives.

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