The International OCD Foundation recently launched a web series aimed at bringing awareness to the impact that OCD and anxiety has on the athletic community. The series will take the form of panel discussions including a variety of experts. The first episode in the series focused on the OCD and anxiety experienced by professional athletes. Among the panelists were former MLB All-Star player John Buck and OCD expert Dr. Robin Zasio.
Do professional baseball players have OCD and anxiety?
John Buck, who was a catcher for a variety of MLB teams including the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, discussed his own experience playing professional baseball while struggling with his mental health. He described the intense anxiety he experienced when he simply threw the baseball from home plate back to the pitcher. Although he did not share the exact outcome he feared, he described visiting stadiums before the start of games to practice throwing the ball from home plate to the pitcher’s mound and reassuring himself that nothing catastrophic would happen. Even Buck, who participated in the 2010 All-Star game avoided seeking mental health treatment due to the mental health stigma within the athletic community. He disclosed that he finally decided to seek help after competing while exhausted after his intense anxiety kept him awake nearly all night before a game.
What is the brain’s role in OCD?
Dr. Robin Zasio, a psychologist specializing in the treatment of OCD, discussed her knowledge and clinical experience working with athletes with OCD. Dr. Zasio discussed how when someone is experiencing OCD symptoms the amygdala, a small part of the brain involved in responding to danger, begins to fire activating the person’s flight or fight response. Therefore, the person with OCD experiences their symptoms as real-life catastrophes. To the person with OCD, throwing a baseball from home plate to the pitcher’s mound, feels as if it is a truly dangerous situation.
How can professional athletes get treatment for OCD?
Dr. Zasio went on to describe exposure with response prevention (ERP) as the sole effective treatment for OCD. ERP is a treatment approach that involves people with OCD putting themselves in situations that trigger their obsessions while they practice inhibiting themselves from engaging in a compulsion. She described ERP as the hardest thing that someone with OCD will ever need to do. In fact, many people seek out other treatments in hopes of finding an alternative to ERP. However, in Dr. Zasio’s experience, this leads to people’s OCD symptoms intensifying, which can lead to people feeling hopeless and even contemplating suicide. Therefore, she recommends seeking ERP treatment early and avoiding the consequences of delaying effective treatment.
If you are interested in discussing ERP for athletes with OCD then 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.