You win some, you lose some — and the Super Bowl every year is no exception.
As the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers went head-to-head in Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday night, fans were headed either for a victory dance or a major let-down — and we all know the dramatic outcome by now, with the Chiefs taking it in overtime by a score of 25-22.
So what happens when your favorite team loses? Experts say a loss could lead to sports fan depression.
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Although not clinically recognized as a medical condition, sports fan depression is a “very real experience for avid sports fans,” said licensed professional counselor Jill Lamar, who is based in Pennsylvania.
“Sports fan depression occurs when your team or favorite player loses to the competition,” she told Fox News Digital.
“For those who are overly invested in the outcome of sporting events — especially something as titanic as the Super Bowl — their emotional attachment to their hometown or favorite team can get in the way of their happiness and mental health.”
Lamar, who provides counseling services at Thriveworks in Philadelphia, noted that sports fan depression can leave people with feelings of sadness, frustration, numbness and lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.
These emotions can last for two weeks or more after the game ends, she said.
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“You may be distracted at work or withdraw socially, especially now that the season that brought you together with your fellow fans has ended,” she said.
Christopher La Lima, PhD, a licensed psychologist at NYU Langone, also discussed the condition with Fox News Digital, noting how much goes into being a sports fan.
“Time, effort, money,” he said. “Being a sports fan can involve a shared common cause and building of a community.”
The psychologist echoed that sports fans may experience feelings of loss and grief when their team loses.
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“Loss can be experienced in many ways, such as through the loss of a loved one, a relationship, aspects of health, a job or a role where someone feels a sense of purpose,” he said.
“While sports fan depression is not a formal mental health diagnosis, the emotional distress is real.”
Clocking the warning signs
The friends and partners of sports fans are “most likely well aware of the impending reactions to their team losing,” according to Lamar.
Some warning signs of sports fan depression include becoming frustrated and upset when your team drops a ball, a field goal bounces off the goal post or a play is thwarted by the opposition, Lamar said.
This condition most often appears in men, although it is not exclusive to one gender alone.
“Everyone who cares about sports is rooting for someone or a particular team,” she said. “And their disappointment will show — a sigh, the occasional frustrated outburst, a sad face at the end of the game as they leave the bar or turn off the game.”
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“If these reactions continue to grow into sadness and irritability way past the last whistle, it could be a sign of sports fan depression.”
Frustration during a game can build until it becomes a “frightening rage,” according to Lamar.
But after the game, sports fan depression turns that anger “inward” and can “become debilitating,” she said.
While the typical response of a sports fan after a big loss is a few days of complaints and sadness, people experiencing sports fan depression can experience symptoms for months.
LaLima stressed the importance of making the distinction between sports fan depression and recognized depressive disorders.
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“Clinical depression, and more specifically major depressive disorder, involves specific diagnostic criteria and persisting symptoms that cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning,” he said.
Some major depressive disorder symptoms can 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, according to La Lima.
How to cope
Since not everyone can be a winner, Lamar and La Lima offered some tips on how to cope with the initial wave of sadness after a loss.
Lamar suggested that “putting things into perspective can help shift a sports fan’s view of the outcome, whether it’s good or bad.”
“With many platforms showing games 24/7, it’s easy to let a preoccupation with sports become a mind-numbing habit bordering on addiction,” she said.
“Don’t let your interest in sports overtake the 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 necessary to realize them.”
While people tend to think in “black and white terms” when experiencing negative emotions, La Lima advised sports fans to think more flexibly.
“Problem-solving and impulse control can improve when these negative emotions become less intense,” he said.
“When acting in these moments, I like to think, ‘Cool the iron before you get burned.’”
Other coping skills can include taking a brief separation from sports, seeking out other distractions and using self-soothing techniques like deep breathing and self-care, La Lima said.
“Tackle feelings of emptiness after a big loss by identifying where you feel purpose, [such as] in relationships with family and friends, and in your interests and community,” he said.
Fans should make different use of the time previously dedicated to the sport, said an expert.
“Sports can provide a structure for socializing … It can be helpful to stay socially connected and lean into social support,” noted La Lima.
Lamar also suggested making an effort to connect with friends who love the same sport — as well as with those who don’t.
And when the season is over, Lamar said, fans should make different use of the time previously dedicated to the sport.
“Learn a new skill, pick up chess, take a cooking class, join a MeetUp group — anything that sounds interesting,” she suggested.
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LaLima added that difficult feelings often need to be spoken about, as “holding onto them can make us feel like a shaken soda bottle.”
“Rather than letting pressure build and opening it all at once, loosen the cap a little at a time,” he advised. “Talk about day-to-day thoughts and feelings in real time.”
The psychologist reiterated that depressive disorders often require evaluation and treatment from mental health professionals.
“Those concerned should seek professional mental health support in this regard,” he said.
Before Sunday night’s game — which saw the Chiefs take the win in dramatic fashion in overtime — Lamar joked ahead of the final outcome on Sunday night that fans should “wave to Taylor Swift,” no matter what.
“She’s made one helluva effort to get there,” she said.
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