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Professional Sports, Stress and Depression

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

This weekend is the Super Bowl, Sunday, February 6, 2010. During the year, other events occur, such as The World Series, The Stanley Cup, the NBA championship and so on. Health experts usually warn fans to avoid drinking in excess, eating too many foods that are high in fat and loaded with salt, while they are watching the games. However, there is another danger for fans danger. This danger is rarely discussed.

During my career as a psychotherapist I was impressed with the number of men who, during the course of their therapy, came to sessions extremely depressed and stressed if their team lost a championship game. One person talked about the fact that he could not even get out of bed if his team, the New York Yankees, lost the World Series. One would not think that a game would have such an impact on people, but it does.

Around the world, soccer fans watching a game in the stands, can become so violent, that they literally cause a riot. The cause of the riot is the tension and controversy between the fans of opposing teams.

I remember how, during my adolescence, I would be extremely frustrated and agitated when my team lost the World Series, especially if it was the Brooklyn Dodgers or the New York Giants Football team. Then it dawned on me that the outcomes of these games had nothing to do with my life. In fact, the players, whether on the losing or winning teams, went home with huge amounts of money while I and others moaned about the loss.

There have been a number of newspaper articles pointing out the population of a city of a losing team feel depressed in contrast to those of a winning city.

I must hasten to add that this dynamic affects only those who are fans of a particular sport or sports. There are many people who could not care less and will ignore this Sundays hysterics over the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. It is the sports fanatics who are most deeply affected.

Perhaps people identify with the fate if their team but, whatever the motivating factors are for fever pitched energy, its important for fans to protect their mental health.

To protect yourself, if you are a fan, please remember that the outcome of this or other games has little or nothing to do with your private life. In the end all of us will still have to face our bills, the demands of work and the challenges and difficulties of family and children.

Sports are fun and I am still a fan. Just keep it in perspective.

Your comments are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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