PCD: Post-Competition Depression in Dancers
Whether an athlete wins or loses, episodes of depression following the mental exhileration of intensive training or competition are common and normal. PCD is usually self-resolving. It is readily treatable, even when problems continue or interfere with continued sports participation or other life activities, and needn’t be ignored or otherwise suffered. Early attention works best.
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Self-management can be highly effective. For the consistency that supports early recovery, application of mindfulness maintains a correct recovery perspective to plan and follow a multifaceted approach that partially differs from normal training:
KEY POINTS FOR RECOVERY
- Immediately assure balanced nutritional replenishment, including antioxidants, high-quality protein, and complex carbohydrates
- Increase rest & sleep time for a few days, and seek health care support for any lingering difficulties
- Allow time for processing the mental and metabolic shifts from drained performance zone levels, to recovery & training levels
- With severe episodes of PCD, a short period of reduced training intensity will amplify benefits of rest.
- Health care support should be sought when episodes are severe or don’t start to resolve within 2-3 days; early support ensures an adequate plan is underway for rapid recovery to regular activity
The Body Chemistry of Competition
Exercise stimulates the same hormonal system as the so-called fight or flight response: lots of adrenalin and related compounds spill into the bloodstream as well as transmitted along specific nerve connections, all in order to support optimal mental and physical performance. This ability evolved through survival needs of the prehistoric human. If confronted by a lion, our ancestors needed to make the correct executive decision to immediately give their strongest fight, or the very best in running away as fast as humanly possible.
In sports, a very high level of physiologic exhileration is often sustained to a point of near-depletion of the adrenalin-discharge, usually occurring as a depletion phase is also underway regarding nutrient supply. This is directly followed by increased demand on body resources for repair and recovery of muscle strains and energetically drained. Symptoms include muscle soreness and sleep disruption, but this is also a reflection of the degree to which the body’s chemistry and normal hormonal firing patterns are often significantly disrupted.
All considered, the off-chemistry that often manifests as post-competition depression or similar effects can be an expected feature of committed sports participation. Rather than resisted or ignored, PCD is readily resolved when addressed preventatively or proactively.
OverTraining, UnderPerformance, and Post-Competition Depression
Prolonged, hard training without sufficient recovery periods disrupts biochemical recovery mechanisms following the adrenal depletion of high-performance. This is a common feature of
- OverTraining Sundrome
- UnderPerformance Syndrome
- Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS)
- Post-Competition Depression (PCD).
For any of these conditions, health care support by a qualified physician trained in sports medicine should be sought as soon as it is apparent that symptoms are not improving. This will ease and shorten the recovery course.
Prevention of PCD
Preventative planning is of increased value to high performance athletes. Prevention strategies for PCD require coordination between athlete, coach, and trainer for
- allowing sufficient periods of rest between training and competition
- increasing rest when similar or reduced activities are causing increased fatigue
- assuring performance-specific nutritional support for supplying adequate nutrients for the activity demand
- mental skills training for developing effective tools for stress management and positive coping
- mindfulness training for cultivating a positive performance focus and effective injury recovery discipline
Recovery From PCD
Many illnesses, even a bad flu, can create a temporary sense of overwhelming impact, and PCD has a very strong effect in this regard. The reality is that PCD is highly treatable, especially with a multiple, integrated approach similar to preventative strategies.