• Sometimes, we are so invested in our favorite sports teams that we experience symptoms of depression when they lose a big game or when the season comes to a close.
  • These symptoms can cause serious harm, but the good news is that there are effective techniques for recovering from sports fan depression.
  • First, you should take a step back and remember that it’s just a game. Because it is an emotionally-charged event, it feels a lot bigger than it really is; but the reality is that the large majority of your life is unaffected by this loss.
  • Additionally, it’s important that you stay social. If you’re down because the sports season is over and you’re missing time spent with friends watching the games, be sure to schedule other social interactions.
  • It’s also important you fill the empty void that remains when the game or the season is over; you can accomplish this mission by hanging out with friends and family, reading a new book, or watching a new sport!
  • In addition, talk with a loved one about your sports fan depression—commiserating with a fellow fan of the same team or sport might prove the most beneficial, as they can relate to your grief.
  • Finally, consider meeting with a counselor. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression that don’t go away within a few days, you might need professional help.

The first time a client came into my office, explaining that he was feeling depressed after his favorite hockey team lost the championship game, I thought he was exaggerating—that, or just being sarcastic. But he was serious. And over the course of the hour he explained his feelings of loss, despair, anger, irritability, and his inability to focus at work, which are all common symptoms of depression. I thought, “What a rare and unusual case!”

Not long after this session, I was talking with another clinician at the practice, and she was telling me how she was having the same depression symptoms…in response to the same game! It turns out that experiencing the blues after a sports-related loss is a common experience for sports enthusiasts. And for some, the symptoms can be shockingly painful.

Tips for Depressed Fans

Are you feeling down after a sports-related loss? Did your team lose last night? Here are several strategies for beating these painful blues:

1. Take a step back.

The networks do a great job before a game–especially a championship game–to make it sound like the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind is about to go down. Of course, they never say, “And remember, it’s just a game!” This, in combination with the fact that you’re a huge fan of your team, makes the situation a very emotionally charged event. Here’s the thing: When something is emotionally charged, it looks and feels a lot bigger than it actually is. Sure, your team lost, and that sucks. But 99.9% of your life is unaffected and unchanged. Taking a step back will give you a broader perspective to put this loss in its rightful place—one that doesn’t ruin the rest of your week.

2. Stay social.

People who feel down or depressed have a tendency to isolate themselves. Also, if the sports season is over, you might be lacking that pre-scheduled time every week or few days to get together with friends to hang out and watch this game. Social withdrawal only makes one’s mood worse. So, make an effort to keep your social life going strong, even if you don’t think you’re feeling up for it.

3. Fill the void.

If you’re a diehard fan and the season is finished, you’re going to notice a post-season void. And it’s important you fill this mental and emotional space with something else. Find something else you’ll enjoy; a project, hobby, group, or event to get involved in. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Plan a ski trip.
  • Have friends over for a weekly dinner tradition.
  • Pick up reading or writing again.
  • Join a dart league or dance team.
  • Start watching another sport.

In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter what it is that you do. Just do something, something that you enjoy.

4. Talk about it.

Talking about your sports fan blues with a friend will help you process the disappointment that you’re feeling. Commiserate with other fans who are having some of the same feelings. It can help just to know that people care (and they do) and to be reminded that you’re not alone. Pretty soon, you’ll be talking less about the loss, and more about what your team’s going to do next year (they’re going to crush it, of course).

5. Wait it out.

“Sports fan depression” is probably better described as the “sports fan blues”. While the symptoms can match those of depression—and while they can be surprisingly painful and disruptive—they generally have a short “half-life”. In most cases, you’ll feel better in a few days. (To be diagnosed with something like major depressive disorder, the symptoms would need to be more longstanding; or more specifically, last at least two weeks.) That said, if it has been a few days and you’re not feeling better, or if your symptoms are so severe that they’re affecting your sleep, work, or relationships, you might want to consider meeting with a healthcare professional like a counselor.

The Red Sox went 86 years without getting to a World Series. People lived their entire lives and didn’t see a victory. But, if you’re in Boston, what are you going to do? Abandon the Sox and become a New York Yankees fan? No way! Remember, you never know what’s going to happen. It seems that every year at least one team that’s favored does awful, and a team with low expectations has a record-breaking season. So stick with your team and fellow tribe (whether that’s the New England Patriots or the Los Angeles Rams football team), and ride out those tough losses together! And when you do start to suffer after your team loses, remember the tips above.

2022 Update

With Super Bowl LVI swiftly approaching, Thriveworks is here for you with these further resources about sports fan depression (not that your team is going to lose, of course):

Super Bowl LVI: Whether our team wins or loses, there’s a positive link between sports and mental health

How to comfort a distressed sports fan when their team loses

A look at 10 types of depression

Can sports cause depression?

And finally, Greg Miller, Licensed Professional Counselor at Thriveworks in Cherry Hill, NJ, discusses the grieving process of forlorn sports fans in the New York Post:

“Sports depression is just like losing a job or a relationship: It’s something you’ve invested a lot of time in psychologically, emotionally and physically….It’s a grieving process. Essentially, it’s an entire area of the country going through grief together and simultaneously.”