Super Bowl and sports fan depression: How to cope when your team loses, according to mental health experts

Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. And the annual Super Bowl is no exception.

When the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers went head-to-head in Super Bowl 15 on Sunday night, fans were headed for either a victory dance or a huge disappointment.

So what happens if the team loses? Experts say it can lead to depression among sports fans.

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Although not clinically recognized as a medical condition, sports fan depression is “a very real experience for avid sports fans,” says Jill Ramer, a licensed professional counselor based in Pennsylvania. talk.

“Sports fan depression occurs when a team or favorite player loses to the competition,” she told FOX News Digital.

Chiefs fans (left) and 49ers fans react to plays from past games. (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“For people who are overly invested in the outcome of sporting events, especially large-scale events like the Super Bowl, emotional attachment to their hometown or favorite team can get in the way of their well-being and mental health. ”

Lamar, who provides counseling services at Thrive Works in Philadelphia, said depression in sports fans can cause people to feel sad, frustrated, numb and a lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed. he pointed out.

These feelings can last for two weeks or more even after the match is over.

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“Especially after a season of connecting with fellow fans, you may feel distracted by work or socially withdrawn,” she says.

Dr. Christopher La Lima, a licensed psychologist at NYU Langone College, also discussed this condition on Fox News Digital, pointing out how much work being a sports fan requires.

Chiefs fan with face paint

Chiefs fan “KC Mike” yells at Chiefs players during warm-ups before a game against the Chargers at SoFi Stadium on Dec. 16, 2021. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“Time, effort, money,” he said. “Being a sports fan involves sharing a common cause and building a community.”

The psychologist agreed that sports fans can experience feelings of loss and sadness when their team loses.

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“Loss can be experienced in many ways, including the loss of a loved one, a relationship, an aspect of health, a job, or a role that gives you a sense of purpose,” he says.

“Depression in sports fans is not an official mental health diagnosis, but the emotional distress is real.”

Time warning signs

Friends and partners who are sports fans are “probably well aware of the immediate reaction to a team losing,” Lamar said.

Warning signs of depression in sports fans include being irritated and upset when the team drops the ball, when a field goal hits the goal post or when a play is interrupted by an opponent, Lamar said. he said.

a man shouts at the television

Psychologists say frustration during a match can build up to a point of “terrible rage.” (St. Petersburg)

Although this condition is most common in men, it is not exclusive to one gender.

“Everyone who is interested in sports is rooting for someone or a particular team,” she says. “And their disappointment will manifest through sighs, occasional outbursts of frustration, and sad faces when leaving the bar at the end of the game or when turning off the game.”

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“If these reactions continue to grow to sadness or frustration past the final whistle, it could be a sign of depression in the sports fan.”

Frustration during a match can build up to a “terrifying level of rage,” Lamar said.

But after a game, she says, sports fans’ depression can turn that anger “inward” and become “debilitating.”

49er fans at the 2020 Super Bowl

Jessica Rodriguez of Concord, California, reacts while watching the San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs game at the Super Bowl viewing party held at SPIN San Francisco on February 2, 2020 in San Francisco, California. Husband Tony Rodriguez. (Philip Pacheco/Getty Images)

A sports fan’s typical reaction after suffering a major loss is to grumble and feel sad for several days, but those experiencing sports fan depression may experience symptoms for several months.

Larima emphasized the importance of distinguishing between sports fan depression and recognized depressive disorders.

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“Clinical depression, more specifically major depressive disorder, involves specific diagnostic criteria and persistent depression that causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.” “These include symptoms,” he said.

Symptoms of major depressive disorder include depressed mood, loss of interest in activities, significant changes in appetite or weight, fatigue, changes in sleep, and feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, La Lima said. It may include things such as.


Not everyone can be a winner, so Lamar and La Lima offered some tips on how to deal with the initial wave of sadness after a loss.

Lamar suggested that “putting things in perspective can help change the perspective of sports fans, whether the outcome is good or bad.”

Men who are depressed after losing a game

Experts say that for people experiencing sports fan depression, symptoms can last for several months. (St. Petersburg)

“With games being broadcast 24/7 on so many platforms, getting hooked on sports can become a mind-numbing habit that borders on addiction,” she says.

“Don’t let your interest in sports overtake other more important aspects of your life.”

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Lamar encouraged sports fans to “take a deep breath” and list their goals and “the priorities needed to make them happen.”

While people tend to think in “black and white” terms when experiencing negative emotions, La Lima advised sports fans to think more flexibly.

“If these negative emotions are attenuated, problem-solving and impulse control may improve,” he said.

man watches soccer on tv

“Don’t let your interest in sports overtake other more important aspects of your life,” advised a licensed mental health counselor. (St. Petersburg)

“When acting in moments like this, I like to think, ‘Let the iron cool before you get burned.'”

Other coping skills include temporarily withdrawing from sports, using other distractions, and using self-calming techniques such as deep breathing and self-care, La Lima said.

“To deal with the feeling of emptiness after a significant loss, identify where you feel your purpose and [such as] In our relationships with family and friends, and in our own interests and communities. ” he said.

Experts said fans should use the time they’ve been spending on sports in other ways.

“Sports can provide a structure for socializing. Staying socially connected and relying on social support can be helpful,” La Lima said.

Lamar also suggested making an effort to connect with friends who love the same sport as you, as well as those who don’t.

san francisco 49ers fan

San Francisco 49ers fans cheer during the first quarter of the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Santa Clara, California. (Ray Chavez/Media News Group/Mercury News via Getty Images)

And once the season is over, Lamar said fans should find other ways to spend the time they’ve been spending on sports.

“Learn a new skill, start playing chess, take a cooking class, join a MeetUp group, anything that sounds interesting,” she suggested.

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Lalima added that difficult emotions often need to be talked about because “holding on to difficult emotions can make you feel like a shaken soda bottle.”

“Unscrew the cap little by little, rather than increasing pressure and opening it all at once,” he advised. “We talk in real time about our daily thoughts and feelings.”

Chris Larima Nyu's Psychology

Dr. Christopher Nicholas La Lima is a licensed psychologist and clinical assistant professor at New York University Langone College. (New York University Langone)

Psychologists reiterated that depressive disorders often require evaluation and treatment by mental health professionals.

“Individuals should seek professional mental health support in this regard,” he said.


Regardless of whether the Chiefs or 49ers win this year’s Super Bowl, Lamar joked that fans should “wave to Taylor Swift.”

“She worked very hard to get there,” she said.

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