Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Post Tournament Depression (PTD)

For a few years now, I've noticed an emotional change in the days following a tournament. I've spoken to a few others who about it and they've noticed similar things. Usually, the Monday after a physically and mentally taxing tournament, I'll exhibit several (generally mild) symptoms of clinical depression. Now, I may be overly sensitive to the subject since I have a psychology degree and since I've suffered through bouts of clinical depression in my life (ironically, Ultimate has been the best cure for me). I am not suggesting that Ultimate in general, or tournaments in particular cause clinical depression. Rather I have experienced what I describe as "Post Tournament Depression (PTD)" which is a mild, short duration (2-3 days) form of depression.

Here are a few of the symptoms I've noticed:
  • lack of energy
  • sad or withdrawn
  • irritable
  • difficulty completing simple tasks
  • difficulty focusing
The severity of the symptoms has more to do with how difficult the weekend was physically, moreso than whether the weekend was a success or not. Even 'fun' tournaments can cause PTD if I have to play a lot.

I've failed to find any studies on physical exhaustion causing temporary depression, so perhaps it's all in my head. It makes sense to me though, that a physically draining event could cause a person to feel depressed for a few days, while the body recovers. I do not mean to ignore the mentally exhausting aspect of the problem. I do think that a mentally taxing tournament can increase PTD symptoms, but I think physical exhaustion is the main cause.

So, does anyone else notice symptoms of depression in the days following a tournament? Do you just wait it out or have you come up with a way to bring yourself out of it?

27 comments:

Will said...

I've definitely noticed this in myself, and also took to calling it post-tourney depression years ago (you can have full credit, though... PTD is a great tla). I've chalked it up to the culture shock of re-entering the real world after a full weekend of nothing but ultimate. You're probably right about a physical cause, but I think there has to be a mental component to it... even the most exhausting practices don't typically cause any symptoms.
As for how to cure it... an extra shot in the americano usually does the trick.

Frito said...

For me, I believe that these symptoms have more to do with how I personally performed at the tournament than how physically exerting the activity was. I find that if I perform well at a given tournament, my attitude and demeener the next day will reflect that I did well. On the other hand, if I did not perform as stellar as I would have liked, you better keep your distance because I can be irritable and cranky.

I guess that isn't really depression though.

llimllib said...

I actually just recently started noticing that too. After clambake, despite the fact that I had played well and my team had won, the next couple of days I showed definite depression. It's so far been the worst episode - maybe it happened worse because we did so well?

I tried to explain it at the time but could not come up with an adequate reason.

wood said...

I can certainly see how a variety of factors could influence how strongly PTD affects a person. I always felt there was, at least, a physiological basis to PTD, with other factors stacking on top. I do think Will's comment about grueling practices not causing PTD is an interesting one and I'm not sure how to reconcile it with my experiences. I don't recall having PTD after a tough practice weekend, but I can't be sure. I'll be sure to watch for it in the future.

As for how to combat PTD, I meant to discuss it in my post a little. I usually have food cravings after a tournament (generally greasy or salty) and I tend to think my body is telling me I need that kind of food. Maybe it's just an excuse to eat pizza though. Also, I suspect that a little exercise would help, even if that seems a bit counter-intuitive. I'm going to try and go for a run next time I'm experiencing PTD and see if that helps.

Edelman said...

i would say i've experienced mild forms of this, but i think it's more mental than physiological, and i hadn't started experiencing it until after college. i believe that it's basically your brain shifting from playing, competing, freeness, do-nothing-but-play-ultimate-ness to the back-to-work mindset. i always feel like i'd rather keep doing nothing but play ultimate after a tourney, and realizing that i have to wake up at 8 and perform at my job the next day is a bit, well, depressing.

so, i would call it more of a longing to be back with all your friends and teammates playing ultimate than a depression state, although one could possibly induce the other.

deepdiscthoughts said...

Great topic.

I find that it is partially due to the complete mental and physical exertion given for a particularly grueling tournament. Commitment to one single goal after a week or more of focusing on that same goal. You've faced the mountain of fear and doubt and enjoyed the pleasure of following through on your visualizations and anticipation.

You've gone from one huge goal and accompanying week-long physical and mental odessey to your usual comparatively pointless regular life. At work or school or whatever point of your life you are in, every single choice and action don't have as much importance as the things you do on the weekend. IF you lose focus once in ultimate, you can lose the game/tournament for your team. If you do this at work, you don't ever really seem to lose anything.

The return to the week is a reminder that your life and your actions are nearly as important as we all love to think that they are.

This is an internal and often unexpressed values choice on the part on ultimate players. We place so much value and invest so much time and money in our sport and our accomplishments... The rest of our lives often seem like white noise in the background.

Where are our priorities anyway?

PErsonally, this can happen after practices for me as well. Big tournaments or little tournamets. Fun or intensely competitive. Perhaps it is because my dream as a kid was always to be a professional athlete, and this is as close as I'll ever get to it...

By the way, the worst case of this is after Nationals... I haven't won yet, but I know the week or month after losing... yow. Irritable hardly begins to describe...

angela said...

'post-tournament depression' is totally something i've totally experienced and discussed with other ultimate players before. i think the mental aspect plays a big role for me... as an introvert, i think the mental (and physical) stimuli experienced over a tough weekend of ultimate (regardless of outcome, but usually worse if we didn't win or i made some critical mistakes) requires recovery and recharging time for me. the biochemical effects of consuming a bunch of depressants over the course of the weekend probably doesn't help. that and i start missing my friends and teammates. i guess i'll take note of my emotional state after nationals (since i won't actually be exerting physically) and compare to how i remember feeling in other years.

it seems like if i go to the gym or go on a short run to get my body moving, i feel somewhat better. and eating comfort foods like turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese... mmm.

-dd said...

Yes, good topic.

I think that PTD is a loot like the depression that a lot of people experience when coming back from vacation.

At the last tournament I went to, I met a few hundred people and I was not bored for one second.

When I got back, everything seemed excidingly SLOW and BORING. The only thing that seemed worth doing was checking the calendar to see when the next tournament is going to be.

Solutions? Perhaps some exercise and doing one of the things that got postponed because of the tournament.

-d

-dd said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
KQ said...

Here's something that doesn't help PTD: fall rec league.

Here's something that does help PTD: offseason team workouts. Daddy Dz BBQ afterwards doesn't necessarily hurt either. ;)

ncbvt said...

i have definitely noticed the same -- and it is, as noted, worse depending on the mental and/or physical level of exertion. I've found one good resolution is to do some physical activity for at least a 1/2 hour the day after the tournament. this should be something non-ultimate or running related activity, but it should be aerobic -- such as cycling or swimming. stretching is also very effective as well. The trick is noticing the funk you're in and making sure you get out and do something.

Martha said...

yes, I have experienced PTD as well. However, I remember feeling this way as a kid after a really fun weekend (i.e. slumber party). I think that tournaments just give you a pretty big high both from the competition aspect and the fun of being around all your friends. When we are playing ultimate, we undoubtedly have a sustained & increased release of endorphins in our bodies. When we are at a tourney but not playing, we are usually laughing more than an average weekday at school or work. Laughing also must cause an increase in the happy stuff too, right? So, when there is an excess of seratonin-like stuff (?), doesn't the body think it needs to produce less...? (or increase the number of receptors for them, for the biochemically inclined). Then when the fun abruptly stops (i.e. Monday), the body is left with a shortage. Someone comment on this theory--it's been a while since I studied this stuff. Maybe we should do a study.
or take zoloft. or get acupuncture. :)

j-co said...

I've definitely felt it, and I second Martha's chemical theory. At a frisbee tournament, you spend two or more days on a chemical rush: phsyical exertion, mental focus, competitive emotions, team bonding. I don't know anything about the nature of the chemistry--endorphines, adrenaline, seratonin, and so on--but the lack of focus and gloominess I experience the morning after definitely feels like the body saying, "Why aren't I high any more?" Obviously, non-chemical factors play a role as well. We're caught up evaluating our play, we want to talk through what happened, we want to play again, we (maybe) miss our teammates. But even when the sun is shining and the tasks at hand are enjoyable, I sometimes have an extremely hard time being productive the day after a tournament, and the root of that difficulty seems in part chemical.

hwicha said...

The pressure. recently we have returned home from NSUT (National Students Ultimate Tournament; Finland) being bitten up in 4 games out of 5. We found ourselves in the "Death Pool" and I guess couldn't hanlde the pressure of knowing that we would not win. So after playing first round and being creamed in 3 games of 4, in the next round we could not pull it together and lost it all and as a result place 24 (of 32). How to handle the pressure of a "death pool"?
Thanks.
Yuri

sachi said...

Definitely..physical activities like ..swimming,playing,and other games is very important in the human body...so PTD is really great...

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Carmina said...

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