Bodybuilding and depression (+Understanding the connection)

This article will discuss why Bodybuilders may get depressed. It will explain why, even though exercising is seen as a way to prevent depression, the lifestyle of bodybuilders can cause them to become depressed. The article will also explain what depression is, and its common causes.

Bodybuilding and depression 

Bodybuilding, like many other forms of sports, can improve a person’s emotional condition, and be a way out of depression. It can improve the person’s sense of self-worth, and self-esteem. Being able to observe how they have developed can also have a positive impact on the person’s well-being.

But this sport seems to also have an impact in helping people develop depression. In this form of sport the person focuses on increasing the mass of their body through lifting weight. Which leads people to a very restricted lifestyle, and those can, in ways increase the person’s chance of getting depressed. 

Nowadays it is known that depression is related to levels of hormones, and neurotransmitters. And the type of diet the person has and how nourished a person is play a key role in that. Bodybuilders are usually overly careful in what they eat, and that can even cause them to be malnourished. 

As they prepare for a competition, they can make such a harsh change to their diet that it can even impact their mental health. They may eat too much raw food, or egg whites, which can lead to trouble in your body releasing biotin. Those crash diets also limit the amount of vitamin B6, which is extremely important in producing serotonin.

This neurotransmitter is responsible for improving your mood, and low levels of it are often related to depression. Aside from Vitamin B6, crash diets also affect the levels of vitamin C, and B12, and the two when low, can lead to depression.

Another matter that seems to make bodybuilders more susceptible to depression is a large number of drugs, and performance enhancers they still use, such as amphetamines, steroids, estrogen blockers, and L-DOPA. Those can change their hormone levels and can lead to depression.

Aside from the chemical balance in their brains, bodybuilders are always asked to look their best. This high pressure to improve their physique, and being under evaluation all the time, can also lead them into a stressful path, which can lead to depression.

Becoming aware of the risks that being a bodybuilder can bring, allows you to focus on finding a healthy balance for you. But let’s learn a little more about what depression is, so we can understand what impact those actions may have on the bodybuilder’s life.

What is depression?

Depression is a mental health condition that causes the person to experience intense sadness. But not only that, it can make the person feel hopeless, lose sense of purpose and interest even in things they used to love. It can make it hard to focus, and cause you to feel less energetic.

Aside from that, depression makes you have a more negative view of the world, and even of yourself. Causing your self-esteem and your sense of self-worth to be lower. It can make you more irritable, isolated from others, and cause you to feel guilty, and ashamed.

Depression changes the person’s eating and sleeping patterns, and it can lead them to consider self-harm, and even have thoughts of death, and suicidal thoughts. Even though those are the common symptoms of depression, they can change from one person to the next. 

But it is important to know that for a person to be considered depressed, they should experience some of its symptoms intensely for more than 2 weeks.

Bodybuilding and depression (+Understanding the connection)

What are the causes of depression?

Some factors seem to contribute to a person developing depression. It can be that the person has a genetic predisposition to it, and when they have a family member that has had depression before, they have a higher chance of developing it.

Aside from that, a person can get depressed as they are going through a traumatic experience such as the loss of a loved one, or the end of a relationship. In other cases, that seem to be better related to what causes bodybuilders to become depressed, it can happen due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. 

So let’s discuss ways bodybuilders can prevent depression from happening.

How can Bodybuilders prevent depression? 

Since the diet restrictions, and some other lifestyle decisions, bodybuilders put themselves in seem to affect the chemical balance in their brain, it seems that taking some control over that can go a long way in preventing and coping with depression. 

You should try to make sure you have a balanced diet that has all the vitamins and minerals you need. You should also try to stay away from those drugs that many bodybuilders use, those can have a direct connection to your mood and can easily lead to depression and even anxiety.

Although being a bodybuilder can take too much of your time and energy, try to still have things in life that give you joy. Establish good relationships, have hobbies you love, and take time to relax and recharge yourself. This can help you handle stress better when it is necessary.

You should also be active in dealing with things that are not making you feel good. If you are having trouble at work, try to deal with it. The same if you have trouble in a relationship. Don’t bottle your feelings up. Externalizing how you feel is a powerful way to prevent depression.

Aside from that, the moment you start to notice there might be something going on with you, and that your mood is changing, look for help. Don’t wait until the depression has taken everything from you. Get in touch with a therapist or a psychiatrist and start your healing process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): Why do bodybuilders get depressed? 

What are the benefits of bodybuilding when you are depressed? 

If you are going through depression, bodybuilding can have some positive impacts. It can help you clear your mind, and is something that asks a lot of focus from you, so by doing so, you may need to keep focused on it. Which can be great when you are depressed.

Although it can impact your motivation, having a goal can be extremely positive to help you be more active. Weight training can also improve your cognitive well-being and relieves your stress levels. 

Aside from that, as you start to see the results of your efforts, you may start to feel some improvement in your mood, with some sense of accomplishment. 

You may also start to look at yourself more positively. Which can help your sense of self-worth, and your self-esteem. As with most exercises that as for endurance from you, bodybuilding will help you deal with negative situations easier.

Why can bodybuilders look older?

Sometimes bodybuilders can look older than they are because of the way they have been treating their bodies. For example, if they are taking steroids, it can make the inside of their bodies more stressed out.

This can happen because there will be a lot of protein for their body to go through. The nutritional program they are in can also have a huge impact on how they look. As for their appearance on the outside, the use of steroids may cause people to lose their hair, and their skin to age faster. 

Why do bodybuilders dehydrate?

Dehydration is a technique that bodybuilders can use to make their muscles more prominent, so they would look better. But this is an extremely dangerous technique that can put their bodies through a lot of unnecessary stress.

This method consists of drinking a lot of water for a week, and about 30 hours before your event you stop it. As said by Hugh Jackman, he has done it to shoot as Wolverine, it will make you look great. 

Other people, such as fighters, may do it, to lose some weight before a competition. And although a lot of people may do it, some do so with medications such as diuretics, which can harm the person’s kidney. 

It can also harm your muscles in the long run. Making your muscles dehydrate, and get worse in appearance.

What is bigorexia?

Bigorexia is a condition also known as muscle dysphoria. It will lead you to constantly think you need to build muscles in your body. It is similar to other body dysmorphia, and it leads you to think your muscles are too small.

This condition will lead you to spend a lot of time at the gym, which can stress your body because it is going over its limits. You may also start to follow diets that are not necessarily healthy, and it can even lead you to hate your body. 

This muscle dysphoria can be so intense, that it can lead the person to depression, risky behaviors such as using steroids in their body, and even suicidal thoughts. 

To cope with this condition, you should focus on your self-care, and be careful with what you take as a way to make your muscles bigger. You may want to take away from your phone apps that do calorie counting, or that make you more worried about how fit and muscular you are.

In some cases, people will need professional help. They can go to therapy to understand what is behind this idealized body image. This can happen in individual therapy, or even through support groups on the matter. 

Why are bodybuilders weak?

Bodybuilders can be weaker than other weight lifters because they are focused on different things. While the weight lifters focus on their strength, bodybuilders focus on making muscles, and for that, they need hypertrophy. 

Can bodybuilders have suicidal thoughts?

Yes, bodybuilders as with any other person can have suicidal thoughts. This can mostly come from being depressed. And it is important to know what type of suicidal thoughts they are having. There can be the most passive one or a more active form of suicidal thought. 

In the first one, the person will think about ending their lives but not have any concrete plan around it. It may be a fleeting idea. As for the second one, it is a more active thought, in which the person is thinking about how, when, or where to do it.

This is usually the most dangerous type of suicidal thought since in an impulsive moment the person may act on it.


This article explained why bodybuilders can develop depression. And what are ways they can cope with it. Aside from that, the article explained what depression is, and what are its causes.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.