Is Sports Addiction a Thing?

Every month, approximately 10,000 Americas open up their web browsers and type “sports addiction” into their Google search bar. Another 1,000 or so do the same for “addicted to sports”. To be clear, there is no professional diagnosis for sports addiction because it is a highly generalized pairing of words with a lot of nuance involved. That being said, we cannot ignore the fact that tens of thousands of individuals reach out each year for information and help for the behavioral health problem, as they see it. Perception is indeed a reality in such a case.

Being addicted to sports (so to speak) would align with what we call a process addiction. A process addiction is a non-substance-related disorder that involves a compulsion to engage in a rewarding behavior despite any negative consequences to a given person’s well-being. Those who search for insight into the issue may be concerned about how much attention, time, and resources they devote to watching and following sports/athletes and participating in adjacent activities. If one’s perceived obsession with sports does have a detrimental impact on their life (and/or those closest to them) then it deserves intervention as much as any form of compulsive behavior. Before we get to that, let’s first look at some key questions to determine what may be involved.

Questions to Consider Regarding a Perceived Sports Addiction and What You Can Do About it Today

Do You Exhibit Symptoms of a Process Addiction / Obsessive Passion?

Before we get into what the symptoms may look like, it’s important to clear up one thing; it’s perfectly normal for most people to have a dominating interest in their lives. How many people do you know truly have varied passions? Have you ever met an avid golfer of surfer? A photography enthusiast or bibliophile? Their lives outside of work tend to be governed by their passions to the point that the content they consume, activities they partake in, and trips that they take all somehow align with their sole interest. Yes, it can be irritating to friends and family when that’s all the individual wants to talk about, but we must be careful when drawing the line between harmonious passion (HP) and obsessive passion (OP). The former (HP) integrates into the authentic self because it is highly valued, and the person chooses to engage of their own free will or volition. The latter (OP) involves the relentlessly pursuit of the thing that one is passionate about to the point that the interest/activity overpowers them.

So what might an obsessive passion for sports, or “sports addiction”, look like? The symptoms of a process addiction connected to this genre may include the following:

  • Constantly thinking about the daily/weekly/monthly sports schedule (for NCAA, NFL, NBA, etc.).
  • Being overly emotionally invested in the lives of professional athletes.
  • Needing to consume sports content in increasing amounts to find the same rush of excitement.
  • Getting into debt due to excessive spending on sport streaming services, in-person game attendance, and/or memorabilia collecting.
  • Attempting to control, cut down or stop watching/following sports, without success.
  • Feeling irritable, restless or anxious when not watching/following sports.
  • Diving into sports and the lives of athletes to escape problems or relieve feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.
  • Missing out on education or work opportunities because of an obsession with sports.
  • Alienating romantic partners because of an obsession with sports and not showing interest in their passions.
  • Alienating friends and family by not showing interest in their passions.

Is Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) the Problem?

Your concern about sports addiction may be more specifically related to daily fantasy sports (DFS). If you’ve been spending too much time invested in DFS, have you been told by friends, family, or even coworkers that you might have a fantasy football addiction, then you need to tackle this specific concern instead of looking at sport as a whole being the culprit. Modern DFS has been designed to function a lot like sports betting (more on this below) so the potential for addiction is indeed a real concern. Please follow our 3 Step Guide to Taking a Break from DFS. In doing so you may get to the root of the problem and break the hold that this avenue of fandom has on your life.

Is Sports Betting the Problem?

This is where the concept of sports addiction gets more palpable. If your compulsive behavior regarding sports is connected to betting on it, then you may be struggling with gambling disorder (GD). The symptoms of gambling disorder align with those that we detailed above regarding an obsessive passion (OP) for sports fandom. All that you really need to do is add “betting” after the word “sports” in each instance and you’ll see what we mean.

It’s essential to not only look at the symptoms of compulsive sports betting, but the risk factors and vulnerabilities as these may help explain why you have a problematic relationship not just with sports betting, but fandom and all that it entails. Risk factors and vulnerabilities for GD (along with OP propensities) include the following:

  • Cooccurring anxiety disorder
  • Cooccurring depression
  • Cooccurring schizophrenia
  • Cooccurring bipolar disorder
  • Cooccurring post traumatic stress disorder
  • Cooccurring Alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • Genetic factors (your parent/s struggled with GD)

We hope we have provided the insight you were looking for as to why you feel that you may be addicted to sports. If you can relate to any of the above, we encourage you to speak with a professional counselor right away who will assess your vulnerabilities to problematic behavior and provide a strategy to manage your relationship with sports (DFS, betting, fandom) in a healthy way. Reach out via your preferred contact below to chat with a Kindbridge care coordinator.

Concerned About a Relationship with Sports Fandom?

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Sports Addiction