Olympic athletes are often able to demonstrate feats of athleticism that would be impossible for the average person. Their athletic abilities could understandably lead people to believe that they must be as remarkable emotionally as they are physically. However, athletes such as Michael Phelps have taken great strides in raising awareness about mental health issues among the world’s top athletes. The HBO Sports documentary The Weight of Gold highlights the impact of mental health issues on top U.S. athletes such as Michael Phelps, Gracie Gold, Lolo Jones, and Sasha Cohen among others.
The Weight of Gold was recently discussed by The Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA (video posted above). The panel discussed a phenomenon referred to as post-Olympic depression. Many athletes have reported that instead of reveling in their accomplishments after the Olympics, they experienced a feeling of emptiness and depression. It is thought that this depression is a result of the void left after the frenzy of media attention, anxiety, and excitement of the years long build up to the Olympic Games.
Among the UCLA panel was Sasha Cohen, 2006 Olympic silver medalist in figure skating. Cohen shared her insight into the experience of anxiety and excitement of competing in the Olympics. She reflected on how many Olympians have worked towards their goals since the age of 5 and “one slip of a blade” could change everything for someone. She encouraged athletes to enjoy their experience, as it will all be over someday. Cohen posited that when an athlete looks back on their career they won’t value the medals they’ve won but rather the lessons they’ve learned on their journey.
If you are an athlete suffering from depression or any other mental health issue, you do not need to face it alone. Cognitive behavior therapy, especially when informed by sport psychology, is an effective approach to addressing mental illness. If you are interested in learning more schedule a free phone consultation.
Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He provides online therapy (telehealth) by way of the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo and all over California.