Well Being

Athletes And Mental Illness

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This post is part of Celebrity Health Week at the b5media Health & Wellness Channel. For more information about Celebrity Health Week posts here at Mental Health Notes, visit Introducing Celebrity Health Week: Celebrities And Mental Illness.

In this Celebrity Health Week post, we’ll take a look at some athletes who have a mental illness – or had, in the case of the deceased.

Please note that I am not an authority on athletes and mental illness. For an athlete to be on this list, he or she or a spouse or reliable family member must have publicly discussed – verbally or otherwise – his or her mental illness, or, in the case of the deceased, professionals must have addressed it later on.

Read on!

Terry Bradshaw, sports commentator and former quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, admitted to dealing with anxiety attacks and depression.

Shelley Beattie, former bodybuilder, dealt with bipolar disorder during her life.

Willie Burton, former professional basketball player, reportedly has unipolar depression.

Barret Robbins, former Oakland Raider, received five years of probation and ordered to be treated for bipolar disorder in relation to charges in 2005.

John Daly, professional golfer on the PGA Tour, has battled alcoholism, gambling problems, and reportedly bipolar disorder.

Paolo Di Canio, retired Italian football player, reportedly has unipolar depression.

Ricky Williams, Miami dolphins running back and Heisman trophy winner, was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder.

Ilie Nastase, former professional Romanian tennis player, reportedly has bipolar disorder.

Scott Donie, former American diver and Olympic medalist and current Head Diving Coach at New York University, reportedly has unipolar depression.

Wendy Williams, former U.S. Olympic diver, was diagnosed with major depression in 1994, after a spinal injury that forced her to retire.

Paul Gascoigne, retired English football player, reportedly has unipolar depression.

Jimmie Piersall, sports broadcaster and former MLB player, has bipolar disorder and is the subject of the movie Fear Strikes Out, which is based on his autobiography Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story.

Dwight Gooden (aka Doc Gooden and Dr. K), former MLB player, reportedly has unipolar depression.

Julie Krone, the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown race and the first female jockey inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, reportedly has unipolar depression.

Earl Campbell, former football pro and current founder and president of Earl Campbell Meat Products, Inc., manages panic disorder and documented his life with panic disorder in The Earl Campbell Story: A Football Great’s Battle With Panic Disorder.

Greg Louganis, a Greek American diver who won back-to-back Olympic titles, reportedly has unipolar depression.

Alonzo Spellman, former NFL defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Detroit Lions, has bipolar disorder.

John Madden, former NFL player, former Oakland Raiders head coach, football video game magnate, and a top broadcast analysts for NFL games, suffers from a fear of flying (also referred to as aerophobia, aviatophobia, aviophobia, and pteromerhanophobia). He once suffered a panic attack in a plane, and states that his fear of flying actually deals with claustrophobia rather than an actual fear of flying or heights.

Monica Seles, former World No. 1 professional tennis player, reportedly has unipolar depression.

Muffin Spencer-Devlin, former professional golfer on the LPGA Tour, reportedly has bipolar disorder.

Pat LaFontaine, formerly of the National Hockey League (New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres, and New York Rangers, has battled depression.

Darryl Strawberry, former baseball player for the New York Mets and the New York Yankees, reportedly has bipolar disorder.

Kendall Gill, former NBA player for an array of teams such as the Charlotte Hornets, the Seattle SuperSonics, and the Chicago Bulls, was diagnosed with clinical depression.

Luther Wright, former basketball player with the Utah Jazz, retired from the game after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Pete Harnisch, former pitcher for MLB, has struggled with depression.

Oksana Baiul, Ukrainian professional figure skater and the 1994 Olympic Champion, reportedly has unipolar depression.

Note that this is not a comprehensive list of athletes who have mental illnesses; it’s merely a list of the athletes for whom I’ve found information. If you know of any others – and can provide credible sources – feel free to leave them in the comments.

Until then, stay tuned for information about celebrities and obsessive-compulsive disorder, political figures and mental illness, and famous people with schizophrenia.


Images: Newscom