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Your Brain & the Super Bowl: Win or Lose, the Mental Health Effects of Being a Fan

Your Brain & the Super Bowl: Win or Lose, the Mental Health Effects of Being a Fan

Football stadium under lights showing impact of Super Bowl on mental healthFootball enthusiasts can take note: Research over the years reveals some significant mental health benefits to being an invested fan. A 2003 review of the literature published in Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sports Psychology suggests that allying oneself with a group, such as a football or baseball team, can give a person a sense of belonging and social connection.  There’s a bonding that takes place, and a feeling of shared purpose, that can have positive psychological ripple effects on deeply engaged fans.

“Many fans are motivated to root for a particular team because of that identity with a team, with other fans, and with the community,” says Adam Earnheardt, chairman of the communications department at Youngstown State University and co-author of Sports Fans, Identity, and Socialization: Exploring the Fandemonium (Lexington
Books, 2013). When you’re aligned with a team, it’s hard to feel alienated or alone: Simply wearing a Seahawks jersey in Seattle can bring a thumb’s up or a high-five from someone you’ve never met before, just through that shared connection.

The positive effects of fandom can only increase if a beloved team wins. But what if they lose? Experts say that shared misery over a team’s losses can be yet another form of bonding—as long as the fan can keep his or her feelings in check. “I think it depends on how invested the fan is in the team,” says Earnheardt. “If it rises to the level of fanaticism, where the entire identity of the fan is wrapped up in the success or failure of the team, then the effects could be dramatic.”  If a fan already suffers from a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression, over-investing in a team can be a risky business. “We cheer on favorite teams for something Hans Selye called euphoric stress, or eustress,” explains Earnheardt. “Selye, a famous endocrinologist, described this as a kind of good or positive stress, as opposed to distress, or bad stress.” For example, the game’s come down to a 48-yard field goal with :03 seconds left on the clock, and you’re on the edge of your seat. Depending on how well-equipped you are to handle that kind of moment and keep it in perspective (it’s just a game, right?), good stress can turn into distress. So someone suffering from an anxiety disorder or depression might want to avoid those close, high-stress games, says Earnheardt.  In the end, the benefits of fandom seem to outweigh the risks for most people. As this football season draws to a close, let yourself feel that team spirit—and the sense of community and human connection that come with it.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.

The GeneSight test must be ordered by and used only in consultation with a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications. As with all genetic tests, the GeneSight test results have limitations and do not constitute medical advice. The test results are designed to be just one part of a larger, complete patient assessment, which would include proper diagnosis and consideration of your medical history, other medications you may be taking, your family history, and other factors.

If you are a healthcare provider and interested in learning more about the GeneSight test, please call us at 855.891.9415. If you are a patient, please talk with your doctor to see if the GeneSight test may be helpful.

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