Overstated expectations and dissatisfaction with the results: why experts are concerned about the mental health of athletes
The psychological state of professional athletes is increasingly causing concern among specialists. Recently, a large number of athletes have admitted that they have to deal with various disorders, which often is not only guessed by the fans, but also by their surroundings. So, the center team of the Women’s National Basketball Association “Las Vegas Aces” Liz Cambridge talked about the long-term struggle with depression. At the same time, NBA leaders announced that starting from the 2019/20 season, special rules will be introduced in the league aimed at protecting the psychological health of players.
"The regime of existential crisis"
Recently, one of the central topics in world sports is increasingly becoming psychological health. Constant physical activity, stress, dissatisfaction with oneself in case of a defeat negatively affect the athlete’s perception of the world around him and himself in it. Each of them is required on a daily basis maximum results - whether in the training room or at the stadium. Otherwise, there is a risk of losing a place in the team or team.
At the same time, the athlete’s personality and how he himself experiences his failures recedes into the background. Often, not only fans, but also coaches do not think about this, the only indicator of their success is the victory of the wards. All this is superimposed on the fear of showing one’s weakness, showing the whole world that the vulnerable nature is hiding behind physical strength.
However, the situation has been changing lately. A growing number of athletes decide to admit that they are experiencing serious psychological problems that prevent them from not only performing at a high level, but also leading a normal lifestyle. And they do this not only for their own sake, but also for their colleagues in the workshop, as well as for all people who have faced similar situations.
One of the latest examples of such recognition was the story of the center team of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) “Las Vegas Aces” and the star of the Australian national team Liz Cambridge. The famous athlete has repeatedly expressed her opinion on this topic, but now she has decided to admit what she has to face throughout her life, as well as to draw public attention to the lack of awareness in this matter.
According to the basketball player, her first psychological problems appeared in her teens. Even then, she had to fight alcohol addiction. Once in the North American League, she first faced with depression, anxiety and panic attacks, which almost brought her to suicide.
“And people are ready to talk about how, having passed the WNBA draft, I spent almost every night of my first season alone, bursting into tears? And about all the cases when I locked myself at home, fell out of life and roared for hours on end (I call this state the “existential crisis mode” - when anxiety develops into depression, and I turn into a junk that has fallen to the ground, convinced of its own insignificance and stupidity)? ” , Said Cambridge on a blog on The Players' Tribune.
The basketball player admitted that her psychological state often had a direct impact on her professional career. She had to change several teams, just because she felt uncomfortable, being away from family and familiar surroundings. Confidence was not added by mistakes on the floor, each of which further aggravated her condition.
For some time, the situation improved thanks to taking medications. They dulled her feelings and slowed down her perception, but at the same time did not allow her emotions to control her condition. However, at some point, Cambridge stopped taking them, which resulted in even bigger problems.
Serious deterioration came after the star WNBA weekend of 2019, held at the end of July in Las Vegas. The troubles in his personal life overlapped with unsuccessful performances, as a result of which the center failed two meetings in a row - with the Dallas Wings and Los Angeles Sparks - which provoked a new attack.
“Outside the locker room, I, still dressed in uniform, found an empty corridor. I started to panic. I could not breathe, I could not stop crying. I had a severe attack of uncontrolled panic - a real nervous breakdown, ”the athlete recalls.
After this incident, Cambridge decided to continue taking medication and focus on psychological health. Summing up her story, she noted that a large number of people face similar problems - regardless of their type of activity. In this regard, each person should be able to freely turn to a specialist.
“Many of these young people are truly unhappy.”
There are many causes of mental disorders in athletes. One of them is overstated requirements from others, the need to match the image of the winner and the hero. This is precisely the situation faced by the 23-time Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps.
In August last year, he first talked about how he had been anxious for a long time, and also struggled with an obsessive desire to commit suicide. According to him, everything could really end badly if he didn’t turn to specialists in time, and also decided to tell the general public about everything.
“I would like to make a difference, I would like to save my life if I can. You know, this is more important than winning a gold medal, ”Phelps quoted CNN as saying.
The worst condemnation on the part of fans can only become a failure to meet their own standards. In November 2015, MMA fighter Ronda Rosie confidently went to the next defense of the organization’s light bantamweight title, one all changed the fight with compatriot Holly Holm. The condition of the athlete was affected not so much by a knockout in the second round, but by the loss of a belt after four and a half years of domination in the octagon and the realization that someone turned out to be stronger than herself.
Positive events sometimes lead to poor mental health, as Serena Williams, the 22-time winner of Grand Slam tournaments, faced with the birth of her daughter Olympia. The legendary tennis player suffered an extremely difficult birth, which could not but affect her physical condition. However, for a long time she had to deal with depression, which prevented her from leading her usual life.
Often the situation is aggravated by their own denial of the problem. This was stated by San Antonio Spurs defender Demar Derozan, who in February 2018, on his Twitter page, he admitted that depression "robbed him of the best."
This depression get the best of me ...- DeMar DeRozan (@DeMar_DeRozan) February 17, 2018
Then the basketball player explained that throughout his life he faced many difficulties, as a result of which the disorder became an integral part of his personality, which did not disappear with the advent of money and fame.
In sports such as gymnastics or figure skating, where tight schedules and coaching pressure are superimposed on the transitional age, and great results are achieved at a young age, there is also a high risk of mental problems. Many experts explained exactly the failures of Alina Zagitova, Eugenia Medvedeva, Julia Lipnitskaya and many other skaters after major successes at the Olympic Games and the championships of the planet.
“In figure skating, psychological problems hurt athletes sooner or later, because there are the first three places. This is a tough sport, one person wins, and the rest are in decline. Usually, all girls win the Olympic Games at the age of 16-18. Then they either finish or continue to ride, ”said two-time world champion Roman Kostomarov.
Of course, each case of problems with the psyche is individual, but this does not mean that sports authorities, functionaries and coaches can in no way affect the general trend. So, it’s the male NBA that advanced farthest in protecting the psychological state of athletes. In early August, it became known that starting from the 2019/20 season, new rules will be introduced into the league regulations. In accordance with them, the staff of each club will include licensed psychologists. In addition, team leaders should develop an emergency plan for players in case of aggravation of their problems, as well as attend specialized conferences, the first of which will be held in September.
In early March, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that a large number of basketball players are constantly faced with depression, panic attacks and pathological anxiety. According to him, they are ashamed to admit this openly, which further exacerbates the situation.
“The outside world sees fame and money with all the attendant attributes and wonders:“ But what can they complain about at all? ”But in fact, many of these young people are truly unhappy,” Silver says in The Guardian.