UK boxer Ricky Hatton recently opened up about his battle with depression and how mental illness nearly drove him to suicide on more than one occasion. According to Hatton, during the darkest moments of his disease, he’d go drinking and return home to sit in the dark holding a knife and crying.
In addition to sharing his struggle with depression, Hatton also admitted to abusing alcohol and drugs. His goal now is to break the stigma of talking about depression and other mental illnesses in hope that it will help other people who are dealing with similar issues.
According to Hatton, “There were times when I hadn’t had a drink for days and I’d still come home and if something went through my mind I’d start pondering something. It was the same outcome whether I was having a drink or wasn’t having a drink. But in the end I thought I’ll end up drinking myself to death because I was so miserable.”
Hatton, nicknamed The Hitman for his achievements in the boxing ring, described himself as a runaway train.
During his career, he fought across two weight classes and won titles in both. But despite what he’d accomplished, he found his confidence suffered after losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007, and Manny Pacquiao in 2009. He’d already been struggling with depression and the losses made his situation worse. During that time he was also facing personal problems that escalated his depression even more.
Fans grew concerned about his condition in 2016 when he tweeted that he felt as though he had nothing left.
Advocate Who Understands the Struggle of Mental Illness
Now, speaking as a survivor and an advocate for those struggling with mental health issues, Hatton says he believes boxing and its “solitary nature” likely contributes to depression. He points out that other well-known stars of the sport including Mike Tyson and Tyson Fury have also admitted to struggles with depression.
He noted how much more difficult it is to fight depression than it is to fight in the ring and said the disease is out of his comfort zone. Today, though, he feels no shame in talking about his emotional struggles.
Hatton has also talked about how drinking and using drugs played a role in his depression. He admitted that he’d always enjoyed drinking, but said he can’t do it when he’s depressed because it makes things worse. He felt as if the more he drank the more depressed he’d feel and that eventually led to also using drugs. He said he didn’t care who he was with or what he was doing and didn’t even care if he died during a binge.
Alcohol and Depression
It’s common for those struggling with depression to turn to over-drinking.
According to WebMD, more than 30 percent of people suffering from major depression have a co-occurring problem with alcohol consumption. It’s one of many high-risk behaviors that tend to occur at higher rates for individuals dealing with depression.
For some people with depression, drinking is a coping mechanism that for a moment helps them escape the symptoms of their mental illness, but eventually makes the problem worse. Coming down from the temporary “high” of a drinking binge, usually referred to as a hangover, can include feelings of depression. The more a person abuses alcohol the longer these post-drinking periods of depression tend to last.
In part, the helpful-then-harmful effect of alcohol on depression is due to the biological effect it has on the body.
According to Richard Shadick, PhD, director of the counseling center and adjunct professor in the psychology department at Pace University in New York City, “Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it slows down the body and the mind. In moderate to heavy amounts, it can make someone more depressed. If someone is already down, drinking alcohol will only increase the depression.”
Making matters worse, it seems people who are dealing with either depression or a problem with alcohol abuse are at a higher risk for facing the other problem. Studies have shown that people dealing with alcohol abuse or depression have double the risk of developing the alternate condition. This indicates more than a correlation – there is likely a causal relationship between alcohol abuse and depression. Dale Curd, a Canadian psychotherapist with more than sixteen years devoted to working with men in groups and now online explains, “Clients have shared with me that drinking or taking drugs began as a way for them to self-medicate the feelings of fear and/or ‘stuckness’ or desolation; a way for them to escape the quicksand of depression to get back to some kind of ‘normalcy’ for them. But after a time what was once a quick fix or release became intertwined with their depression to create an almost impenetrable fog.”
Therapy for Depression
So what can be done?
Many people who have learned to manage problems with alcohol and depression have found that therapy, possibly with the addition of other treatments including medication, can be helpful.
Hatton considers himself someone who needs therapy and has found that he needs to talk about his issues in order to keep his head above water. For him, therapy was a great place to do this.
After his daughter Millie was born, he realized he couldn’t continue on the way he was living. He saw her birth as a catalyst for getting the help he needed.
Hatton said he ended up going to speak to someone and was able to get off his chest the things that were eating away at him. This offered him a path forward and allowed him to look at his issues and get himself right for his family.