Anyone who reads the sports page of their local newspaper knows that there have recently been a number of professional baseball players who have been sidelined due to being diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder.  Just this past week, Khalil Greene of the St. Louis Cardinals was placed on the disabled list (DL) for the second time this season due to Social Anxiety.  He had previously been listed on the 15 day DL starting on May 29th of this year.  When he first came off the DL and returned to play in mid-June, he appeared to have responded well to the time off, as he hit home runs in his first three games.  Unfortunately, he soon started to experience batting problems, and was returned to the DL after going 1 for 17 in his next five games.

Greene’s story has been accompanied by two other high-profile Social Anxiety stories getting lots of coverage by the sports media.  Dontrelle Willis, a pitcher with the Detroit Tigers, has been on the DL twice this season as well, both times reportedly due to Social Anxiety.  And Zack Greinke, a pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, missed much of the 2006 season due to his combined diagnoses of Social Anxiety and Depression.  He took seven months off and sought treatment with a sports psychologist and has returned to great success.  He is having a career year in 2009, going 9-3 thus far, with an ERA of 0.96.

The question arises whether these cases represent a growing sensitivity within professional sports’ regarding psychiatric issues, or whether the pressures of being a professional athlete have become so intense as to lead to an increase in these problems. Some believe that huge salaries, multiple 24 hour-a-day sports channels, and even the internet may be contributing to athletes being under far more social stress than athletes experienced in earlier, less-demanding times.  In either case, it seems that these cases are bringing Social Anxiety into the consciousness of the American public, and hopefully encouraging an open discussion of this often debilitating condition.

•Tom Corboy, MFT, is the director of the OCD Center of Los Angeles, a private, outpatient clinic specializing in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for the treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and related conditions, including Social Anxiety.  In addition to individual therapy, the center offers six weekly therapy groups, as well as online therapy, telephone therapy, and intensive outpatient treatment.  To contact the OCD Center of Los Angeles, click here.