Depression and Fantasy Football? The Realities

I love football.  I am a huge fan who religiously watches both college and professional games weekly.  Even if I am not invested in one of the current teams, I’m more than happy to watch the Sunday night game with a good group of people.  However, I personally have never been a huge fan of fantasy football.  My outlook is that fantasy football clouds one’s dedication to their home team.  I fully realize that I am in the minority in this belief.  Fantasy football is a way for a number of people to get involved in social groups, stay involved with friends or family who live in different states or cities, and even become more educated about the game and its players.   Although there are a lot of positive connotations associated with fantasy football, there are also some negatives that can increase a person’s addiction to a particular style of gambling, obsessive thinking, and depression.  

The addictive side to fantasy football is a pretty obvious one.  As people’s personal leagues have become more and more high stakes, websites have developed where you can join a league of complete strangers for the opportunity to increase your odds of winning.  If you don’t consider yourself to have a full-blown addiction to gambling via fantasy football, you might want to think about how obsessive your thinking patterns have become every Sunday.  Is the amount of mental and emotional energy that can be invested into your various teams and players becoming exhausting?  Is it difficult to watch and enjoy your home team’s game without checking the score updates of other games at the same time?  Do you spend commercial breaks researching other player’s statistics instead of interacting with others?  Asking yourself if you are honestly putting more into your teams than you are getting out of the experience is a good rule of thumb to determine how obsessive your reaction to fantasy football might be. 

Again, I acknowledge that a lot of people can enjoy football and fantasy football without going to the extremes of chronic gambling and obsessive thinking.  But what about just plain old depression?  How much does it affect you when your team loses, when you weren’t able to predict the benching of a certain player, or when your win is so close, but remains out-of-reach after a late Monday night play?  Treatment for the correlation between depression and fantasy football focuses on locus of control and its influence on self-esteem.  In fantasy football, and all gambling, there can be a feeling of hopelessness and/or powerlessness because you never fully know how a player will perform.  If there is a (high) financial stake involved, the reality of depression following each loss could be more accurate.  A main component that could negatively affect self-esteem, besides the obvious loss, could be the ‘trash talk’ that ensues when these types of social interactions develop.  Chronic teasing over the course of September to January can become painful, making the stress of a good performance week after week overwhelming and essential.  

The point of this blog is to get across that there is nothing necessarily wrong with fantasy football, just like any other vice, in moderation.  However, it is quickly becoming a focus of stress and mental health concern as it’s popularity picks up over seasons.  It is important to stay checked-in and aware with yourself to determine how much your fantasy football leagues are negatively affecting you and then act and so you can return to enjoying the game for what it was intended.

Authored by:  Kaitlan Gibbons, PsyD