Exercise Induced Manic Depression

It seems that there are so many people taking drugs to help stabilize their mood. Depression affects millions of people in America. Depression can be a debiitating condition, and in some cases can even lead to suicide. Depression is a serious cognitive issue that should never be taken lightly. Through research it has been shown that depression is linked to many different factors, some that are inherited while others are self induced. Genetics and hereditary factors play a big part in if a person is more susceptible to becoming depressed. For these folks it is important to find the right medication to help improve their chemical physiological imbalance. 

Then there are those folks that I consider have depression as a result of their lifestyle, relationship connections, and physiological needs. This is where it gets a little tricky because I feel that many depressed individuals can alleviate their depressed state by changing certain events in their life. I have been into exercise for over 30 years and have pushed my body to its maximum.  There was a time when I was extremely depressed and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I continued to train through the depressoin believing that exercise would make everything better. However, what I was doing was actually making matters worse. I was simply overtraining and not taking enough nutrients to stabilize my nervous system.  I went to a psychologist and they prescribed me prozac to help stabilize my mood. I was horrified. The psychologist never asked me about my training and nutrition habits, instead they just saw that I was depressed and gave me a “band aid medication” to put over it. I was apolled.  I did my own research and found my answer.

I developed what I call Exercise Induced Manic Depression.   Since I was over-training I didn’t allow my body to recovery from exercise properly.  My nervous system was depleted of the vital nutrients that keeps it running optimally. I was lacking nutritional support to keep up with the demand I was placing on my body. I was lacking in Omega 3 oils, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Vitamin B Complex (very important), folate, amino acids, iron, zinc, iodine, and selenium, all in which are vital for proper functioning of the nervous system. I wasn’t eating enough to feed my body. My nervous system was completely over worked and I became very depressed and suffered from being tired, sore all the time, poor digestion, loose bowels, insomnia, uptight, moody, poor concentration, emotional, and lost the desire to eat. 

The only time I would feel better was when I exercised. So I would continue training hard because of the massive load of endorphins and enkephalins, dopamine and seratonin that I released from exercising. I was in a state of euphoria when I exercised. This elated feeling would last 4-6 hours after the exercise bout. But as soon as  the effects wore off I was completely depressed. I found that every time I stimulated the dopamine levels in my brain I would not be depressed. So during times when I couldn’t exercise I would do things to create the same dopagenic effect. I would do crazy death defying acts, or make big purchases with my credit card, or stay up all night studying anatomy (for some reason that stimulates me, go figure???).

It wasn’t until later that I finally realized what my problem was. As soon as I changed up my exercise routine and began consuming the required amounts of nutrients, that all of my systems of my body required, my life changed. My mind was clear, training was great, and my muscles grew, all my systems came back effectively, I slept like a baby, and the desire to do crazy things ended.  I became balanced again. 

Over the years I have worked in many gyms and have seen many people who exercise fall into the same trap I did. It is not uncommon for aerobic instructors, trainers, and exercise addicts to develop Exercise Induce Manic Depression. Exercising for hours, or exercising 2 to 3 times a day is a normal ritual for these folks. They feel better when they get that dopamine rush and then crash when the effect wears off. 

When these folks realize that they might be suffering from depression they go to their doctor and the doctor will usually prescribe an anti-depressant. Once this occurs then it becomes difficult to resolve the issue. Because now they have a “band-aid” over the problem while continuing with the excessive over-training behavior, which will lead to depletion of vital nutrients for the nervous system. Rather than reducing their exercise while increasing their nutrient intake, they will continue on medication accepting that they will always have to live on it. 

I believe that TOO MANY people are being misdiagnosed with clinical depression and could resolve many of their physiological conditions with proper nutrition.  Unfortunately, as long as people continue to over-train and avoid the cues that signal nutrition deprivation, the longer the drug companies will stay in business selling their “band-aid medication” to people.

Please don’t get me wrong! I am not suggesting in any way that people who suffer from depression should not be on medication. There is definately a need for medication in the right case. I am merely suggesting that, even though we consider exercise a healthy thing to do for the body, I believe that over-training can promote the onset of depression. The nervous system is challenged quite a bit when we exercise and can only work optimally in the right conditions. When those conditions become compromised is when the nervous system becomes drained of its nutrient supply, causing a state of depression to develop.

Even if a person doesn’t exercise per se and is under a lot of emotional stress, they could still be in a self Induced Manic Depressive State. Emotional stress and exercise share the same physiological systems of the body– the sympathetic nervous system. If a person is struggling financially, or is in a bad relationship, or are having trouble dealing with certain people at work, their SNS is constantly on depleting their body of vital nutrients causing central nervous system fatigue.  If the issues are not resolved depression continues. The person goes to the doctor or psychotherapist for help and they end up with their medication. So rather than trying to figure out a financial solution, or get out of a bad relationship, or deal with the annoying person at work, they just medicate themselves. The internal physiological problems still exist regardless of the presence of the medication. The medication just turns off certain receptor sites that signal the pain. 

Most of the time when a  person who is struggling financially is able to regain financial stability they are not as stressed out and are able to maintain emotional balance. I have seen this many times, when a person struggling financially makes it out of the troubling situation their health and attitude dramatically change. Or when a person gets out of the bad relationship is able to maintain a health body composition and have a much greater outlook on life then when they were living with the toxic person.  

We all must take inventory of ourselves and when we are suffering a homeostatic imbalance we must look at every aspect of our being to determine what is wrong. It often times is just a lack of a particular nutrient or that the body needs rest. If every aspect has been looked at and is balance and still there is no resolve then the appropriate medication therapy could be in order. However, I strongly believe that in today’s society where it is a everyone has to be better, stronger, faster, leaner then everyone else mentality, people will continue falling victim to Exercise Induced Manic Depression. 

Please note: Exerice Induced Manic Depression is a condition that I have termed. There is no description of this in any psychology text books, or medical journals. Perhaps someday my theories will be recognized by the appropriate academic channels. But until then, these are only my ideas and beliefs.

Daryl Conant, M.Ed.