7 Athletes that Have Struggled with Anxiety

Anxiety is not a sign of weakness but rather a part of the human experience. It affects people from all walks of life, including some of the world’s most accomplished athletes. While their feats on the field might make them seem invincible, many have publicly shared their battles with anxiety, offering hope and reassurance to countless fans. 

In doing so, they’ve also become champions of mental health advocacy. Here are some of these notable figures:

Michael Phelps 

Regarded as one of the greatest Olympians of all time, Michael Phelps has won 23 gold medals over the course of his illustrious career. Outside of the pool, however, Phelps has struggled with anxiety and depression. He has often spoken candidly about his mental health issues, seeking to de-stigmatize these struggles. Phelps has even established the Michael Phelps Foundation, which, among other initiatives, promotes mental health awareness.

Kevin Love 

Cleveland Cavaliers player Kevin Love opened up in 2018 about his battle with anxiety, detailing a panic attack he had during a game. By doing so, Love aimed to challenge societal views on masculinity and vulnerability, shedding light on the need for more understanding and empathy around mental health issues. He has since become a prominent mental health advocate, launching the Kevin Love Fund to support people in their mental health journeys.

Simone Biles 

Simone Biles, often hailed as the greatest gymnast of all time, has dazzled the world with her unparalleled skill and tenacity. But beyond her impressive achievements lies a personal journey intertwined with anxiety and mental health challenges. 

During the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Biles made headlines when she withdrew from several events, citing the need to prioritize her mental well-being. Her decision ignited global conversations about the immense pressures athletes face and the importance of mental health in sports. Biles’ transparency about her struggles and her decision to put mental health first was lauded by many as a brave step, inspiring countless individuals to recognize that even the strongest among us need to take moments to care for our mental health. Her advocacy emphasizes the message that it’s okay to seek help and prioritize one’s mental well-being, no matter how high the stakes may seem.

Ricky Williams 

Former NFL running back Ricky Williams was as notable for his on-field prowess as he was for his challenges off the field. A Heisman Trophy winner and one of the most promising talents of his generation, Williams faced a tumultuous career marred by media scrutiny largely due to his battles with social anxiety disorder and depression. Instead of shying away from these issues, Ricky chose to address them head-on. 

He took a hiatus from the game at the peak of his career, a decision that stunned many at the time. During this period, he sought treatment and further understanding of his conditions. Upon returning to the league, Williams continued to be an advocate for mental health, helping to make conversations more approachable around it in the high-pressure world of professional sports. Ricky’s journey serves as a potent reminder that true strength often comes in acknowledging one’s vulnerabilities and seeking support.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams is not just a tennis icon but also a beacon of resilience and strength. With 23 Grand Slam singles titles under her belt, she’s established herself as one of the greatest tennis players in history. Beyond her athletic accolades, Serena has been open about her mental health challenges, especially postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter. Her candid conversations about the anxieties and struggles of motherhood, particularly for an athlete at her level, have brought attention to a topic often hidden behind closed doors. Serena’s willingness to share her vulnerabilities on such a public stage underscores the importance of dialogue around mental well-being, emphasizing that no one, regardless of their achievements or stature, is immune to life’s challenges. Her advocacy serves as a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of vulnerability in fostering understanding and empathy.

Brandon Marshall 

Former NFL player Brandon Marshall was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a condition often accompanied by anxiety. Instead of letting the diagnosis hold him back, Marshall became an advocate for mental health awareness in the world of professional sports. He established Project 375, an organization dedicated to shining light on and helping to address mental health issues.

Lane Johnson

Offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, Lane Johnson, is a formidable force on the football field. However, off the field, Johnson has openly addressed his struggles with anxiety and depression. The NFL star has missed games to prioritize his mental health, a decision which, in the high-pressure world of professional sports, underscores the vital importance of mental well-being. Johnson’s forthright discussions about his experiences aim to break the stigma around mental health in sports, offering solace to fans and fellow athletes alike that mental wellness is just as crucial as physical prowess.

In summary

The battles faced by these athletes off the field, court, or pool are as significant as those they face during competition. Their openness and advocacy work serve as reminders that anxiety and mental health challenges can affect anyone. Yet, with support and understanding, individuals can thrive and continue to inspire others.

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