by David Shapiro and Scott Terry
For Michael Phelps, depression is both a problem that many athletes face and also a personal challenge. Despite being the world’s most decorated swimmer and the Olympian with the most medals of all time, with 28 Olympic medals (23 gold), he has faced depression over and over.
In 2004 Phelps got his first DUI (arrest for Driving Under the Influence); in 2008 Phelps was photographed taking bong hit; and in 2014 Phelps received a second DUI. The days following his second DUI were the lowest point in his life. Phelps explained he was on the brink of ending his life in those days between his arrest and court date. “I’m somebody who’s gone through at least three or four major depression spells after [Olympic] Games that, you know, I’ve put my life in danger,” he recounted to David Axelrod with CNN. .
He has asked the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to help athletes who suffer from depression, but complains: “The USOC has done nothing to help us transition after an Olympics.”
Other top athletes, including fellow swimmers Allison Schmitt and Missy Franklin have both spoken about their struggles.
Depression is a debilitating mental condition of overwhelming sadness and disinterest in activity. The victim may feel hopeless, tearful, lack of energy to engage in even the smallest tasks, worthlessness, anxiety, anger, restlessness, and have trouble focusing, and may even have frequent thoughts of suicide.
Peter (name changed to protect the client), an emergency room doctor, is a patient of Dr. Scott Terry, a clinical psychologist. Peter told his story:
“Prior to learning Transcendental Meditation I had struggled with depression off and on for several years. Sleep would frequently be difficult. That led to low energy levels and a lack of focus at work and at home. I took medication and saw a therapist, but during these bouts of depression, I would still sometimes feel hopeless and have little desire to get up in the morning and go to work. At these times, I would feel especially tired. I thought I was doing well.”
If one has been in a traumatic event, depression often accompanies Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It can also be understood as one symptom of PTSD.
Without support, each episode of depression may be a painful, prolonged, and possibly life-threatening time.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode (2 weeks or longer). This number represented 6.7% of all U.S. adults.
People from all walks of life struggle with depression. In an interview with Yahoo News, Actor Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson explained: “Struggle and pain are real,” he said of that dark time. “I was devastated and depressed.
“I reached a point where I didn’t want to do a thing or go anywhere,” he added. “I was crying constantly.”
The standard treatments are psychotherapy and psychopharmacology.
According to the National Network of Depression Centers depression costs the U.S. $210 billion per year and is the leading cause of disability in the US among citizens age 15-44. They also state that 2/3 of people with depression either do not seek help or receive adequate help and that only 41% of adults in the US with mental health conditions receive help.
Psychopharmacology is commonly used but may produce unwanted side effects. It is often ineffective in not only solving one’s original depression or in preventing the next depression. And with extended long-term use, the side effects may have devastating health effects.
Complementary medicine may make mental health care more accessible, without the risk of severe side effects. It includes such approaches as taking herbs, improving sleep, diet, exercise, and adding yogic postures, as well as effective, evidence-based meditation, among many possibilities.
One highly effective, evidence-based meditation is Transcendental Meditation (TM). Ten scientific studies show that TM produces a systematic reduction in depression and even PTSD-related depression. (TM.org section on depression relief)
With TM, practiced twice a day every day, the brain chemistry improves and EEG shows a regular rise in brain coherence. In addition, TM helps improve sleep. With improved rest from sleep, people felt less impulsive and eat in a more balanced way. Because they feel more settled, they can plan for their future and implement daily exercise regimes. So TM acts as a basis for a life shift towards more inner balance and stability, away from causes of depression.
Our E.R. Doctor, Peter, continues his story: ‘Since starting TM, I have stopped the medication and have never felt better. My mood has improved and my stress has lowered as I have a great tool to deal with it more effectively. TM has helped with my sleep and overall energy level. I feel better about myself, leading to a more positive outlook on life.”
Dr. Scott Terry explains: “In my 25 years of practice as a doctoral level clinician, supervisor, professor, and clinical and currently executive director of five different practices, a large mental health organization, and a radio show, I have found nothing more productive or viable than the utilization of TM in the therapeutic process. The first stage of healing is not understanding or feeling but shifting the nervous system so that one could process the experiences and thoughts that one is having. If we think about a condition like persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia) with its six symptoms, transcendental meditation is a perfect tool to address each of them.”
If a person has PTSD-based depression, they often get relief from PTSD and those symptoms fall away. Eighty percent of US Veterans with PTSD became free of PTSD symptoms in 30 days according to a January 2018 study by Dr. Robert Herron in Military Medicine. Eleven scientific evidence-based studies show similar results in many demographic groups with PTSD around the world, from US prisoners to Congolese war refugees, to South African college students ( in submission), to other US veteran groups.
Rigorous, peer-reviewed, scientific studies show a 30-50% reduction in depression with TM in 3-4 months in a wide range of demographic groups… caregivers, government employees, war veterans, prisoners, and others. In many cases, the control group showed much less or no significant improvement during this time.
TM can be used along with the standard treatments to speed up the return to a happy life or may be used on its own.
If you or your loved ones have depression or PTSD-based depression, you may wish to consider adopting an integrated, complementary approach to reduce both short- and long-term depression with the support of a clinician. By making lifestyle changes such as these and by regularly practicing Transcendental Meditation, you may live life with fewer or no bouts of debilitating depression. Michael Phelps, Dwayne Johnson, and many other famous people have called out for help. Here is an effective strategy to help them and millions of other people around the world, enjoy happiness, success, and progress.
About the authors
Dr. Scott Terry, Ed.D., LCPC, LMFT, Ch.T., has 25 years of practice as a doctoral level clinician, supervisor, professor, and clinical and is currently executive director of five different practices including the Ardent Center, a large mental health organization and a radio show.
David Shapiro, B.A. cum laude chemistry, M.A., is an author of two articles published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress (April 2013; February 2014) on Transcendental Meditation and PTSD; the founding President of PTSD Relief Now and its African PTSD Relief projects and Alliance for PTSD Recovery; author of a third article, in submission, on rapid reductions in PTSD in South African college students; and an author of many popular articles on PTSD published throughout the world. His previous articles in the Elephant Journal include: Is Meditation the Answer to Trump’s Goal to Reduce Veteran Suicides? and The Simple Technique that dramatically Reduced PTSD Symptoms in Refugees