Athletes Struggle with Substance Use

June 27, 2016

When an athlete takes the field for the first time he or she adopts the identity of an athlete. Much of the athlete's self-worth is dependent upon their performance on the field. Those who excel athletically develop a strong attachment to their athlete identity. Athlete's are taught that they are "only as good as their last competition." As a result, athletes are objectified based upon their  performance and not who they are as a human being. The more the athlete bases their self-worth on his or her athletic prowess the more an athlete moves away from their true-self. As this gap widens, psychological issues may emerge. Issues such as, depression and anxiety may occur when an athlete's stature changes (i.e., retirement) or performance (i.e., being in a slump). In order to cope with these setbacks, which are tied to an athlete's sense of self, the athlete may turn to substances to "numb" the loss of the athletic identity. This sentiment is shared by Olympic athlete, Michael Phelps, who recently spoke about his struggles with substance use following the Olympics.


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