Commentary: Some athletes struggle with their mental health after the Olympics

NOTTINGHAM, England – After the excitement of competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, you’d expect an athlete to feel on top of the world when they return home. But for some athletes, the period after the Olympic and Paralympic Games can be an especially challenging time.

Although it may not affect everyone, many athletes experience mental health problems after competing in the Games, sometimes referred to as a “post-Olympic dark period.” Many athletes have opened up in the past about the mental health issues they faced as they adjusted to life after the Games.

For example, Olympic skier Nick Goepper reported feeling extremely depressed and even contemplated suicide after returning home from winning the bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. And the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps has spoken about experiencing severe post-Olympic depression.

According to research from 2021, about 24 percent of Olympic and Paralympic athletes reported experiencing high or very high psychological distress after the Games. There are many reasons an athlete might experience a post-Olympic dark period. In some cases, many factors may be involved.

For example, not living up to performance expectations, not reaching a final, or not achieving a personal best affect an athlete’s well-being after the Games.

Underperformance can be particularly distressing, especially given that the Olympic or Paralympic Games only take place once every four years. This means that some athletes will only have one chance in their life to qualify.

Other factors linked to the dark periods following the Olympics include diminished exhilaration from winning, loss of celebrity status, trouble adjusting to life at home, less social support from teammates, injuries, and missing out. routine. after the competition.

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